Banh giay is a white, flat, round glutinous rice cake with a chewy texture. They are presented in a pair, wrapped in small pieces of banana leaves. They are usually served with Vietnamese sausage giò lụa. But they can also be fried to a thin crispy golden crust, and eaten by itself or with the Vietnamese sausage.
According to a Vietnamese folk tale, banh giay gio was invented by a prince named Lang Lieu. As a way to determine his successor, the prince’s father had instructed his many sons to find the most delicious foods in the world.
With the help of the gods, Lang Lieu – who was too poor to travel -concocted banh giay gio from cheap and readily-available local ingredients. The old king found this pair of cakes more delicious than all of the exotic delicacies procured by his other sons.
These cakes are usually served together. One cake, made from steamed sticky rice, is formed into a rounded shape, like the vault of the sky. This cake is often served with pork pate. The other cake, also made of sticky rice, is shaped like a square. This square cake is devoted to the Earth-Mother.
Perhaps the most famous place to sample these cakes is Quan Ganh, a village 15km to the south of Hanoi on National Highway 1A.