Above: Bánh bột lọc – although with a similarity to Thai snack ‘stuffed sago dumpling’ or ‘sago sai moo’ – turns out to be a total different thing.
Esan, Thailand – While traveling through the Northeast of Thailand recently, we stopped at the province of Mudaharn and savoured their famous snacks of ‘Bańh Bėo & Bánh bột lọc‘ at a small shophouse just opposite to the city’s police station.
In Thai, this no-name (but quite famous) shop simply adverts themselves as ‘kanom niew’ and ‘kanom tuay’ ร้านขนมเหนียวขนมถ้วยหน้าโรงพักมุกดาหาร shop. And they sell only two things: ‘kanom niew’ = bánh bột lọc’ or sticky dumplings, and ‘kanom tuay’ = ‘Bańh Bėo’. Both are Vietnamese fares that have apparently found their way into the heart and stomach of people in this area for more than half a century.
Above: Bánh bột lọc complete with the sauce and pork crackling.
In Esan, we have found some particular eating patterns of the locals. Esan fares, those we know of in forms of som tam, sticky rice, grilled chicken and so forth can be served side by side with popular Vietnamese dishes such as spring rolls (Goi Cuon) or Nem nướng. But the further north you go, you will see some individual dishes spinning off as standalone specialty restaurants. For example, these dishes which are popular Vietnamese snacks have become a singular shop, offering the hearty staples from morning until early afternoon.
Bánh bột lọc which looks pretty much similar to the Thai snack of ‘stuffed sago dumplings’ or sago sai moo turns out to be in fact a totally different thing, although not without with a trace of similarity. The almost translucent shell of Bánh bột lọc is made from tapioca – and NOT sago – flour. The tapioca flour is kneaded with hot water until forming, then spread and stuffed with minced pork stir-fried with black mushroom. These dumplings are boiled (not steamed like the sago dumplings) to finish. To serve, each dumpling is cut to dangle with scissors, sprinkled with pork floss and ladled with sweet and sour sauce made from fish sauce and sugar as in the picture above.
Bańh Bėo, meanwhile, is made from rice flour thinned with water, ladled into shallow saucers and steamed to a perfect sticky and soft texture. Not unlike the more popular ‘pak mor’ or ‘steamed rice noodle’ or ‘Bánh cuốn,’ but this one is smaller in size, a little bit higher in thickness, hence yielding more bites and munching texture. Above is the bowl of pre-made Bańh Bėo, and to serve they layer the flours into a plate and topped with pork floss, grilled pork, pork crackling and ladles of special sauce simmered from grilled marinades, sugar and fish sauce. Also on the side is fresh chilies. Very delicious.
This Kanom Tuay Kanom Niew shop has been around Mukdaharn for almost 60 years. The 3-generation owner, Khun Pu, told me that the original recipes belonged to her mother-in-law. They have been selling just these two staples since her mother’s days. The shop is open daily from about 9.30 until early afternoon (about 14.00) or until they run out.
“This is can be breakfast or a side for lunch,” says Khun Pu who shares her space with drink shop and chicken noodle shop just opposite to the police station. “This is how Mukdaharn locals eat. They have light things for the day and hearty rice with savouries for dinner.”
Above: Khun Pu plating Bánh bột lọc or kanom niew. The police station, and Mukdaharn Khong River with boatloads of foams being transported. Apparently, green conscience hasn’t found its way here.
Kanom Tuay Kanom Niew (ร้านขนมเหนียวขนมถ้วยหน้าโรงพักมุกดาหาร) T: (+66) 083 145 1796