When you arrive in Phan Rang–Tháp Chàm, you will have a chance to not only admire the ancient towers, immerse in beautiful Ninh Chữ beach but also taste the specialities of Ninh Thuan province that is bánh căn.
That is one of Phan Rang’s specialities. These light, fluffy quail egg cakes are topped with minced pork, squid or shrimp, as well as a sprinkling of green onions and some nicely fried pork, lards. Served with nước cà, nước mắm or nước mắm nêm. There were also generous sides of sour young mango strips, sliced onions and cucumbers.
The most traditional way of making bánh căn involves a charcoal fire and a clay “stovetop,” outfitted with a series of slots to place the clay moulds directly atop the blaze. Originating in central Vietnam, bánh căn shares some similarities with its southern sibling bánh khọt: they’re both small and made up of rice flour batter.
How Vietnam cooks bánh căn also varies depending on the region. In localities along the central coast like Phan Rang and Nha Trang where the seafood is abundant, eateries garnish their tiny pancakes with a shrimp and bits of squid or octopus, or just a small ladle of batter and a quail egg, not too far off from Japanese takoyaki balls.
In Phan Rang, people enjoy this delicious bánh căn in the evening or better at supper along small alleys and side streets. It also tastes best because it is fresher and uses more hearty flavours. More so than restaurants, street food vendors focus on using only fresh ingredients just bought from the local market that very morning. Successful stands do not have a choice, in fact, because they have massive turnover and sell everything they stock. It is not uncommon for a particular popular street food location to close up shop a bit early because they run out of ingredients due to demand.
The smell of Vietnamese street food experience is another thing that helps it get the leg up on restaurant eating. The olfactory aspect of the dining experience is often overlooked, but the truth is the smells hanging around you while you are eating will drastically alter the perceived taste. Street food establishments do not have a separate kitchen to keep the cooking smells away from the diners, and costumers can have a more immersive dining experience because of that fact. Vietnamese street food location tends to be clustered together, too, so customers can take in the aromas of multiple foods being prepared while eating. After all street food stalls offer a more “authentic” feel, and they are simply more vibrant than indoor dining.