A made-to-order snack
You’d be forgiven for assuming that bo bia ngot has something to do with beer, but it doesn’t: it’s a delicious sweet snack worth interrupting your Hanoi sightseeing for.
The snack is made to order, streetside. First, two very thin and small pancakes are laid flat, then a sheet of honeycomb is placed on top, and sprinkled with desiccated coconut and sesame seeds. It’s then rolled up and handed over — it’s really that simple. You won’t even need (or get) a tissue with which to wipe your fingers.
While it may seem like this is just an excuse to put two sweet substances together, thought has clearly gone into the compilation of this snack. The combination of soft, slightly moist pancake with crunchy honeycomb and chewy coconut deliver an enticing textural sensation and the flavours work perfectly together.
How to find bo bia ngot? One good location is along Thanh Nien Street, which runs between Truc Bach and West Lakes and is home to both Tran Quoc and Quan Thanh temples; it’s also near to the Ho Chi Minh Complex and the Botanical Gardens. Chances are you’ll make your way here at some point, so be prepared.
Look out for the bicycles parked at the side of the road with white boxes on the back marked “bo bia” in red. These aren’t mobile beer trucks; these are where you’ll find your sugar high.
Some of the bikes also advertise keo keo, another sweet treat of pulled sugar formed into a crispy stick. Traditionally the dish was just sugar, but nowadays it’s often filled with peanuts. Another option, keo nha, is like a hard caramel with peanuts and sesame seeds. Health conscious, just in case we need to point it out, these are not!
One portion of bo bia ngot, keo keo or keo nha costs 5,000 VND.
If you have a sweet tooth but this isn’t doing it for you, Kem Tay Ho is also along Thanh Nien Street; other sweet snacks to be found around the city include popcorn and banh ran, deep-fried balls of green bean and sticky rice coated in sugar, honey or sesame seeds. Popcorn runs to around 10,000 VND a bag and banh ran are about 2,000 each — and you’ll want more than one.
Bo bia ngot is not confined to Thanh Nien Street and you may see and hear the vendors calling from their bikes as they cycle around Hanoi. Make sure you stop one of the vendors and try their specialty!
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 28th January, 2015.