Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sponge cake in Saigon - Bánh bông lan

I have no idea how it comes - the Vietnamese name for "sponge cake", and it's really a beautiful name for this popular, light and soft and spongy cake - we call it "bông lan". It's literally means "flower - orchid", word by word! Actually the name itself sounds also really light as a feather!

             A familiar image of sponge cake vendor in Đồng Khởi street. 
The cake's texture reminds the sea sponge, so easy to understand why it's called in English "sponge cake" but in Vietnamese - just imagine - with flower, orchid! Anyway "bông lan" is one of the most popular cakes and could be the only "imported-culture"cake from the West, can be found everywhere in Saigon: from the street vendor selling very tiny "bông lan", right in downtown, to numerous small stalls of family business in the city, we can even buy "bông lan" from the bicycle-vendors in the neighbourhood, these vendors riding around, especially in the afternoon, this light cake could be a good snack for kids after the afternoon nap.

          These tiny sponge cake quite tasty but not really good, just simple snack for anyone.  

            I bought a pack of 15 pieces and it costs 15.000 VND 

           Another sponge cake vendor in Le Loi street 

Back to early 60s of the last century, the image of a young girl, probably from the countryside, selling "bông lan" in Saigon, was very common in our literature, in our "traditional drama", on the stage of Saigon's theatre, that reflected the reality: during the war, a number of young girls escaping from the turbulent countryside, near to the frontline, to flashy Saigon for a better shelter, for a better life. And the sponge cake was one of the popular items that they were selling for living.

         Sponge cake vendor in district 5…with some other popular cookies in the shelf. 

           These small cakes in flower shape reminds me of my childhood's snack on way back home from school. 

When I was kid, my mother sent me to two schools, one in the morning, near to our house, and other one in the afternoon, together with another boy from our family's friend, the second school was far so both of us got a cyclo driver, who took us to school and later picked up us back home. On the way back home, from time to time, the driver bought us "bông lan" from a cake cart in Hung Vuong street. The driver surely has gone for long and I never saw that cart again there.

              I got this cake in my old neighbourhood, it's quite large and costs only 30.000 VND.

             The cake is good, not too sweet, quite buttery but a bit dry to me... 

Talking about the sponge cake, I'd love to share another sponge cake that I'm trying my best to do it perfectly these days: Castella cake (or honey cake). Originally from Portugal, but very popular in Japan
you can click here for more details about the castella cake.
Castella cale is simple, no fatty butter, no yeast, only fresh eggs, good bread flour, a bit of warm water or milk, honey and sugar, but it requires a great skill to made a good one: soft but firm, moisture but not wet. I wish if I can do a very good honey cake, so I could start my patisserie dream.

            Ingredients for castella cake are simple: eggs, bread flour, sugar, honey and rice wine…(oops no butter!) 

                and here …my Castella cake: moisture, not too sweet, flavourful with rice wine.  

            and here the original famous Castella cake from Japan - a gift from an old friend. 


  1. Replies
    1. I do blogging more for pleasure, the ad boxes that you found in my blog just because I'm a registered member of foddieblog, and because of that, yes, I do receive some small ad fee from that community.
      Thanks for checking my blog. Cheers

  2. Awesome blog, love your photos, will definitely check the blog for more useful tips and amazing eats in Vietnam!

    1. Thanks Ken, wish you have a pleasant time in Vietnam in your next coming up trip…and enjoy our foods! Cheers


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