Sweet coconut sugar rolls are a favourite Vietnamese streetside snack

Bo bia ngot is a popular street food in Vietnam.
Bo bia ngot is a popular street food in Vietnam.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/FOODYHANOI

(VIETNAM NEWS) -  It’s easy to satisfy your craving for sugar when you are travelling. Just look out for the bicycles stopping at the side of the road, carrying white boxes with the letters Bo Bia Ngot (sweet summer roll) marked in red.

The snack reminds Vietnamese people of their childhood. Each day when school finished, children with empty stomachs would rush out to the school gate looking for the old men or women selling this special gift on their bicycles. Now, sweet summer roll has become a popular street food not only sold to students but to all in need of a snack.

The sellers wander along Hanoi streets, around Hoan Kiem Lake, through the Old Quarter and the West Lake.

Bo bia ngot is a snack prepared right after a customer orders, so there’s no doubt of its freshness. It consists of two pieces of lumpia wrappers, stuffed with blocks of crispy sugar candies, shredded coconut meat and a good sprinkle of black sesame seeds. Before wrapping, the seller adds some drops of grapefruit flower extract. A big roll costs 10,000 dong, which seems no cost at all. If you find this size too big, you can order two small rolls for the same price.

Nguyen Van Minh from the northern province of Vinh Phuc said he started making rice papers for making sweet summer rolls in 1998. Every day, his family makes 5,000 rice papers to sell to bo bia ngot vendors.

Bo bia ngot is popular in many cities and provinces of the country. The dish originates from China and is also popular in countries like Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, according to Minh.

“The dish is quite cheap but, actually, it has changed life for many people like us,” he said.

Now most people in Bao Duc Village where Minh lives earn a living by making rice papers and sugar bars, the main ingredients of bo bia ngot.

The roll wakes all of our senses as it is crispy, sweet and fragrant. Yet the delicate flavours are produced by simple ingredients you can find almost anywhere.

The rice paper or crepe wrapper in this dish is made from wheat flour and a little sugar, but it is slightly different from the one used in spring rolls. The crepe must be absolutely thin but strong at the same time so that it can hold all the fillings.

Pulled sugar is a crispy candy bar made from malt. The coconut must be shaved from mature coconuts so that it is crispy and buttery.

Bo bia ngot is a roll with few ingredients, but it awakens all of one's senses. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/FOODYHANOI

It’s just a small roll with few ingredients, but it’s a perfect combination of sweetness and crumbliness from the candy bars, and a buttery taste from coconut and black sesame seeds. Though the dish is sweet, it’s not very heavy, so you can eat several without feeling full.

Vendors can turn out a lovely roll in less than one minute, but when you eat it, you should savour each bite to notice every flavour.  
You will surely see bo bia ngot bicycles touring round Hanoi and when you do, stop them and buy one. Or five.