Bánh đậu xanh or mung bean/green bean cake was the best souvenir I discovered in Hanoi. Hải Dương, located about 75km by car southeast of Hoàn Kiếm Lake, Hanoi is famous for its fragrant bánh đậu xanh. When Emperor Bảo Đại (in 19th century) tasted the bánh đậu xanh from Hải Dương, he was so surprised by how good it is. Hence, he issued a royal decree to commend it. On the decree is the Rồng Vàng (golden dragon) symbol. Only Hải Dương bánh đậu xanh uses the rồng vàng image & sentence: bánh đậu xanh rồng vàng (golden dragon green bean cake) on their products.
While researching for my Hanoi trip last year, one of the thing that came up many times was bánh đậu xanh. As you may or may not know, I love anything mung bean. I professed my love for it here not too long ago. The thing about bánh đậu xanh is that I have never heard or seen anything like it before. I’ve eaten many food products made from mung bean in my life but this one is a big mystery. I just cannot imagine how it would taste like. I quickly bought a box of bánh đậu xanh on my first night at Hanoi. But I didn’t try it on the same night. I only tried it on the 2nd day, and before I knew it I’m hooked big time!
Bánh đậu xanh from Hương Nguyên & Bảo Hiên enjoyed with cuppa Hanoi green tea.
The two boxes of bánh đậu xanh that I bought at Hanoi were from Hải Dương. Bánh đậu xanh is made from ground mung bean (mung bean powder/flour) and is shaped into cubes of square, rectangle or round. Come now, I will show you more below.
The unboxing, comparison & verdict between Hương Nguyên and Bảo Hiên bánh đậu xanh:
When I was on the bánh đậu xanh buying quest, I had no particular brands in mind. I bought Hương Nguyên at Vinmart on my first night in Hanoi and I got the Bảo Hiên at Ô Mai Hồng Lam in my second last day there.
a. External packaging:
The box of Hương Nguyên is yellow in color with the brand name in red. It’s a striking yellow-red color combo. In the box are many small boxes which also spot the same color combo.
Bảo Hiên’s box meanwhile is painted in red majority, some yellow and other colors. The box is very fancy and the color combo is more captivating thanks to the designs that accompany it. Like Hương Nguyên, there are small boxes inside but they are mostly yellow in color.
In comparison, Bảo Hiên’s box is just a tad bigger, oozes tradition, and yes very captivating as mentioned above. I would go for Bảo Hiên if I were to choose between the two. Because I’m a s^cker for pretty boxes. 😛
b. Internal packaging:
In the small box, comes this rectangle wrapped silver paper. For Hương Nguyên, there’s an extra plastic packaging wrapping the silver packaging. I’m wondering why both the small boxes from the two brands are yellow in color. And my best guess is because mung bean is yellow in color. Second guess because yellow is a royal color.
Inside these small boxes are 6 pieces of bánh đậu xanh in cube shape. Gah, I wish I still have some left!
|Hương Nguyên bánh đậu xanh||Bảo Hiên bánh đậu xanh|
|Price per box||31,500 VND (~RM5.60)||50,000 VND (~RM9.00)|
|Weight per box||230g||280g|
|Nomber of small boxes||18/20 (guessing as I forgot to count it)||20|
|Total packaging used||4 (big box, small box, plastic, silver paper)||3 (big box, small box, silver paper)|
|Bánh đậu xanh color||light yellow||yellow|
|Bánh đậu xanh size||smaller cube size||larger cube size|
|Bánh đậu xanh ingredients||đường kính trắng (white sugar) 43%, bột đậu xanh (green bean powder) 30%, dầu thực vật (vegetable oil) 27%, vanilin, chất bảo quản (preservatives), acid sorbic (E200), màu thực phẩm tổng hợp (synthetic food coloring) E110, E123||bột đậu xanh nguyên chất (pure green bean powder), đường kính trắng (white sugar), dầu thực vật (vegetable oil), vanillin|
|Bánh đậu xanh texture||looser packed cube, cube is fragile to touch, fine icing sugar like powder||compact packed cube, cube is fragile to touch, fine icing sugar like powder|
|Bánh đậu xanh flavors||aromatic, more sweet, melt in the mouth, smooth, buttery-fudge like, cooling effect||aromatic, less sweet, melt in the mouth, less smooth, buttery-fudge like|
|Shelf life||5 months||3 months|
From the table above, we can conclude that the main ingredients for bánh đậu xanh are mung bean powder, sugar and vegetable oil. Sad to say that Hương Nguyên uses artificial flavoring, preservatives and food coloring while Bảo Hiên uses artificial flavoring. Which makes me wonder, what are the traditional ingredients for bánh đậu xanh? Turns out they use lard (pork fat) instead of vegetable oil and the authentic bánh đậu xanh essence comes from pomelo flower essence/oil and not artificial flavoring of vanillin. This means the traditional ingredients for bánh đậu xanh are mung bean powder, sugar, lard and pomelo flower essence.
Bánh đậu xanh without preservatives will obviously last for a short period (few weeks), but hey, I would choose the ones made without toxic chemicals anytime. 😉 When researching this topic online, I noticed that some of the products advertised are of the traditional/real ingredients. I learned that Hương Nguyên has another version without using chemicals in the ingredients. I’m guessing the ones using traditional/real ingredients are for locals while the one using chemicals are for markets that need longer expiry date such as shops, supermarkets and for exports. I learned this from Japanese food products. ✌️
Hương Nguyên bánh đậu xanh.
Texture, size & color comparison
Preshaped, bánh đậu xanh is powdery like fine ‘clumped up’ icing sugar. When one is picking up a shaped cube, one gotta be careful because it’s very fragile. Just a little extra strength will deform the cube into its original form. The bánh đậu xanh cubes from Hương Nguyên are packed looser, smaller in size and lighter yellow in color compared to the tighter packed cubes from Bảo Hiên, are larger in size and darker yellow.
Bảo Hiên bánh đậu xanh.
Both Hương Nguyên and Bảo Hiên bánh đậu xanh are aromatic and buttery-fudge like. When you eat it, it will melt in your mouth. I love the melting feeling. I found that Hương Nguyên bánh đậu xanh is sweeter and smoother than Bảo Hiên. The former exudes a cooling effect in the mouth which elevated the bánh đậu xanh experience.
I had a hard time deciding which one I like best. Because Hương Nguyên bánh đậu xanh is quite sweet, one cannot eat a lot and yet I love the joy I experienced from the cooling effect while at the same time it’s melting in my mouth. Yums! Bảo Hiên is less sweet and it has something to it that I was unable to pinpoint that makes it equally stunning to eat. All I can say is both have different characteristics but very tasty.
Where to buy in Hanoi & other bánh đậu xanh variety
As mentioned above earlier, I bought the mung bean cake in Hanoi at Vinmart and Ô Mai Hồng Lam. Other places that you can buy this cake are local speciality food shops (e.g. Ô Mai Hồng Lam), supermarkets (e.g. Vinmart, Intimex), shopping malls and airport duty-free shop (the prices are hiked up a lot). Bánh đậu xanh is available all over Vietnam and some places in oversea.
You can also find bánh đậu xanh in green tea (trà xanh) and durian (sầu riêng) variety.
Best way to enjoy bánh đậu xanh…
Best way to enjoy it? I have two ways. One is simply pop ’em in the mouth, and two, enjoy it with a cup of Vietnamese green tea. Both will offer very different experiences but enjoyable no less.
Because bánh đậu xanh is so good, you can’t help but put more and more in the mouth. Thankfully and unfortunately, I only bought two boxes. 😛 It’s definitely a very unique food and what a delicious discovery yo! Bánh đậu xanh makes a fabulous gift and souvenir too.
For the love of ❤️ Bánh Đậu Xanh (mung bean cake), I hope you find this information super useful. 🙂