Snack on the go
Banh kep is basically a waffle made from a rice-based batter. They are usually cooked thin, sometimes more like a cookie than a waffle, which kind of reminds me of the Norwegian Christmas treat krumkake.
Unlike waffles I’m used to back home, banh kep isn’t served with syrup. Instead, they are either eaten plain by hand or topped with various ingredients, the most common being sticky rice and sweetened coconut milk. Banh kep is more of an after dinner snack, but the versions with more toppings, like banh kep xoi, can be much more filling.
Banh kep can be found on the street all over Saigon. The most common way to find it is by looking for ladies in straw hats sitting on the sidewalk. In front of them, they will have two baskets, connected by a length of wood, that they carry over their shoulder. In one basket you will find stacks of cooked, flat waffles and also other variations of waffle products; in the other basket there is a waffle iron cooking over charcoal. These banh kep proprietors seem to haunt the main tourist drags, so if you’re taking a stroll around the city you’re bound to step over a few of them on Dong Khoi.
Expect to pay around 10,000 VND to try one of these tasty waffles but be cautious, as these little ladies are notorious for overcharging unsuspecting tourists. If you’re really lucky, and most likely cruising the lesser-visited spots of the city, you may find a more established banh kep vendor. Often in close proximity to schools, these masters of the banh kep craft will usually produce larger waffles and provide more toppings, but charge the same as their downtown counter parts.
This is one of my guilty pleasures of street food in Saigon and I have a hard time turning one down, especially when there is coffee or smoothies involved. If you’re on the street, and looking for something sweet, give it a try!
By Angela Schonberg
Last updated on 27th December, 2015.