West Lake Shrimp Cake (Banh Tom Ho Tay) is one of the most famous dishes of Hanoi. It is made from crayfish or shrimps from rivers or from the West Lake directly . Over the years, West Lake Shrimp Cakes have engraved in the memories of many generations of Hanoians. Though made of really simple ingredients, this special kind of cakes has had a considerable contribution to Hanoi cuisine.
West Lake Shrimp Cakes were originally sold along the old Co Ngu Street (currently Thanh Nien Street) and quickly gained fame in Tay Ho District. They were soon upgraded from a common snack to a luxury cuisine served in a lot of elegant restaurants. However, West Lake Shrimp Cakes are now sold only in one famous restaurant located on Thanh Nien street. Sitting there and enjoying the cakes in the afternoon with friends would definitely be an awesome experience.
The restaurant is situated on the edge of the Truc Bach Lake, separated from the West Lake by Thanh Nien Street. This is a large restaurant with hundreds of seats, but its name is unknown to many and usually known as the West Lake Restaurant. For many Hanoians, this is a familiar destination to have get-togethers and also formal meetings.
Today, West Lake Shrimp Cakes are popular not only in Hanoi, but also in other areas of Vietnam. Wherever it goes, the dish still carries along the taste of a land with wind, fog and antique memories. Walking down the streets, having a look at the scenery of a prosperous Ha Noi and enjoying hot crispy shrimp cakes have long become a pleasure for many diners.
West Lake Shrimp Cakes have gained such popularity thanks to the dedication of the ones who make them. Shrimp cake coating must be soft and smooth. The fried shrimps should be taken from West Lake because only its shrimps can give people the sweet taste of a first-class freshwater food. In addition, people can also taste the flavor of sweet potato added to the cakes. Frying oil must also be at the best quality, so that the cakes do not absorb too much oil.
The method of making shrimp cakes is quite simple. All you need to do is to mix wheat flour, a little yeast, baking powder, and curry powder with water. Then, wash the shrimps carefully. After that, form the flour into several small round shapes and put one to two shrimps on top of each of them. Heat the frying pan, pour a little fat or cooking oil and put the cakes into the pan. Wait a few minutes for the cakes to float up and then the dish is ready to be served. Even though the procedure may sound simple, it requires a lot of skills and meticulousness. The cooks have to ensure that the amount of flour, powder and water is just enough, and the shrimps are still fresh. That’s why the West Lake Shrimp Cake has always been known for skillfully blended ingredients.
Like many other dishes in Hanoi, the taste of shrimp cakes is also determined by the sauce served along with it. The sauce must have all the basic flavors of sour, spicy, salty and sweet, but not too much or too little of any of them. The cakes taste best when they are served hot. It is also recommended to eat the dish with pickles, some raw vegetables and a big cup of beer.
Currently in Hanoi there are many other places that make and sell shrimp cakes, not only in West Lake District like before. Yet the brand “West Lake Shrimp Cake” is still so deeply imprinted in the minds of Hanoians that when talking about shrimp cakes, everyone will immediately think about West Lake Shrimp Cakes.