This is a story about two friends: Bánh Nậm (rice paste with spiced shrimp and pork) and Bánh Lọc (cassava paste with spiced shrimp and pork). They are similar, and they are different.
They are the bánh (dishes made of flour or paste) and the renowned specialities of Huế – the formal capital of Việt Nam. Many travellers come to Huế and search for Nậm & Lọc (these strangers must have heard a lot about them). The local people who live far from home come back and look for the familiar tastes of Nậm & Lọc.
Nậm (made of rice paste) and Lọc (made of cassava paste) both have shrimp and pork in their ingredients. While well-chopped and spiced mixture of shrimp and pork is topped in Nậm, a whole shrimp with shell and a thin piece of pork are visually seen through the transparent Lọc.
Nậm loves her outfit made of green banana leaf or lá dong (arrowroot leaf) and wears it all the time. Lọc is a naughty guy. Sometimes he puts on the same banana leaf outfit as Nậm does, but sometimes he just enjoys being uncovered. Huế people call him Lọc Gói (wrapped Lọc) when he has clothes on and Lọc Trần (topless Lọc) when he goes naked.
Both Nậm and Lọc Gói are fond of being steamed in a big steamer. They feel more beautiful and aromatic after going out of that smoky steam room. But Lọc Trần is different, he prefers bobbing on the boiling water.
Although they both like nước chấm (dipping sauce) but the nước chấm for Lọc is more salty as his transparent flex is more chewy and less tasty. So be sure to dip Lọc and Nậm in the right nước chấm, or you won’t have a good bite of Huế specialties. One more thing, you should have Bánh Nậm with a spoon and have Bánh Lọc with a fork or a pair of chopsticks.
Many people admire the slim and tender Bánh Nậm, the others love chewy and sexy Bánh Lọc. I prefer Bánh Nậm. How about you?