Thursday, September 6, 2012

Banh Gan. Vietnamese Flan...aka "Liver Cake"


YES...this is the color of Banh Gan.
translation..."LIVER CAKE"


BUT...this has got to be one of the top 5 weirdest things i have ever baked.  make that top 3.
and as you know......i know some weird stuff.

i was introduced to this odd dessert one day when i took my mother on an adventure to Little Saigon here in Westminster, CA.  our goal was to go to 2 of the establishments where they make fresh tofu and serve their wares right on the spot...Tan Tan Tofu seemed to be the most popular on the Internet...closed on Wednesday.  on to  Dong Phuong Tofu just the next street over.  
sorry to say, but the experience was less than we had anticipated...we felt like aliens.  i'm used to feeling out of place because i go to some out of the ordinary places, but the employees (probably the owners) didn't really want to help us AT ALL.  knowing that i was out of my element i was as nice as nice could be, but to no avail.  even my little mother felt uncomfortable.  we muddled our way through the language barrier, with no help from the guy behind the counter...bought a few pieces of fried tofu...good, but not great and didn't see any of the fresh tofu i was hoping that point i didn't dare ask.
BUT at the register there was this odd flat squishy brownish looking dessert.
i saw the word "flan" and threw it in with our small purchase.

when we got home i had to check this "flan" out...
to be honest...first bite?...ewe!  this is NOT the flan i was used to.  way too sweet, gummy, odd texture and a waste of money, might have to throw it out...
second day?...second bite...hmmm, not too bad.  it would be wasteful to throw out...i'll keep it.
third day?...hey, i think i like this.  WHAT THE HECK IS IT?  i liked it so much i ripped off the label and googled Bahn Gan to see what exactly i was eating.  maybe i could find the recipe.

i only found 2...two recipes that really resembled the strange brown spongy liver looking block that i had become fascinated with.
most of the recipes out there looked like regular flan or creme caramel.  as you can see this is not your basic a matter of fact, it barely resembles a flan.  maybe a well cooked "WOOPS, I OVER COOKED THE FLAN" type of flan.

i wish i could explain exactly how weird this was to cook, but i will
cut to the chase...
this post is getting too long.  i could go on and on.
in short...i have already cooked this dessert 3 times and have more to report with a different recipe involving espresso and chocolate that is equally as good as this one.  i will post about banh gan #2 and #3 later.

if you want to try something out of the ordinary and totally weird, BUT DELICIOUS...
whip one of these up.  i have had quite a bit of fun asking friends to try it.  when i explain there is no liver involved at all, only then are they willing to give it a try.
i've already been asked for the recipe twice.

BANH GAN #4 is in the works...

by the way...what's the weirdest dessert you've ever come across ?...

very slightly adapted from QlinArt

7 large eggs
1 cup good quality coconut milk
2/3 cup dark brown sugar or raw cane sugar
1/4 tsp each...powdered cinnamon, anise, cloves.
i did not have powdered anise so i steeped 3 star anise in the coconut?sugar mixture.
1 tsp ginger juice (use garlic press)
1 tsp baking soda

preheat oven to 350 F degrees
grease a 8"x 3"x 4" loaf pan.  i used a glass pyrex because that's what i though would be good for a custard.  ALSO, i wanted to see what it was looking like from top to bottom.

melt sugar in coconut milk over medium high heat in  a medium sauce pan and boil or simmer for about 15 minutes.
add spices, ginger juice and baking soda.  whip with whisk for about 1 will foam up a bit.
remove mixture from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
add slightly beaten eggs in a slow steady stream and beat the mixture until smooth with a whisk.
pour batter through a strainer into a preheated greased loaf pan

bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes in regular oven.
i think mine was in for 45 minutes.  i kept a close eye on it...not knowing what it was supposed to look like, i waited until the center looked like it had risen enough and i knew the eggs were cooked through. 
BY THE was soooo odd looking while it cooked...something out of Alien.  it looked like it was alive all bubbling underneath it's thin brown crust.  i've never seen anything like it.

remove from oven and let the cake stand for at least 15 minutes for it to cool before removing from pan.
as the cake cools it will deflate considerably.  don't be alarmed.  it will condense into a firm custard.

chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
another BY THE WAY...right out of the oven this thing smelled like rotten eggs...sulfur in fact.  i thought, what the heck is this? can this be edible?  i put it in the fridge for a few hours and gave it a try...ewe, still rotten eggs.  yikes.  i was going to throw it out, but knew i needed to blog about it.  i let it sit in the fridge while i thought about it.   a day or two later i brought it out again...after messing around for about an hour taking pictures i realized the smell had gone away.  miraculously the smell had disappeared.

again...cut to the chase....
after it is cooked, put it in the fridge for at least a day or two.  then bring it out and give it a try.  maybe it will need some airing out as well.
i know this doesn't sound all that tempting to a lot of you out there, but it sure makes for great conversation.  if you take the chance and make it, i hope you will be pleasantly surprised like i was...
i'm still fascinated.


Kendra said...

16I love weird stuff like this. It really does look horrid however I can't wait to try it!

Jules and Ruby said... really is weird, but it really IS good. i'll have the other recipe up soon. the other has coffee and chocolate. i hope to try it...

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Unknown said...

Hey I'm a true Vietnamese here and I've never heard of anything called Banh Gan. Maybe it's just some strange creation of the chefs in Little Saigon. Under the name of the beautiful and skily-smooth flan that I've always known and loved, this looks especially terrible :))

Jules and Ruby said...

hi Chi Tran Linh...i found the recipe on the internet, so i'm pretty sure it's a true Vietnamese dessert. my friend at work is also Vietnamese and she knows of the dessert. it definitely IS a weird treat, but by no means "terrible"...LOL just a bit odd. i like "odd". did you check out the newer post of the Mocha Espresso flavored Banh Gan? posted here...
thanks for stopping by

Anonymous said...

This is one my favourite. I don't know how to make it but searching for any place that I can buy it from. It may look odd but the taste is very nice. This's kinda like "flan with BBQ style" hehe :-D. To me, it even tastes nicer than

Anonymous said...

It looked a bit white in your pictures. I prefer the one with a bit espresso and the real banh Gan has a
Bit a bit dark brownish color. But banh Gan tastes good. I love it, but the home made ones are more delicious than the
ones from the shops.

Jules and Ruby said...

hi Anonymous...yes you are right...there is a darker version. i think i have made that one as well shown here... i hope you get a chance to look at it sometime. thanks for the comment

Cat said...

I love your blog! So many weird and wonderful recipes I've never comes across... and I love how simple the ingredients are for this one - basically eggs and coconut (two of my favourite things!)

Anonymous said...

The so-called true Vietnamese who didn't hear of banh gan and thought it was a creation of Little Saigon probably lost his roots. It was a very popular dessert in Saigon when i was growing up in the 1960-1970. I respect Jules for his adventurous spirit and tried to find out more about this dessert. I also have to apologize to Jules for the rudeness of most store owners/workers in Little Saigon. It's unfortunate but true that customer service is non-existent there, especially towards non-Vietnamese speakers. I came across this blog by accident and find out i love your humourous approach to cooking and baking. Awsome job, I'd say.

Cooking addict said...

I use to make this bánh gan when I was a little kid with my mom in Vietnam. We didn't have an oven so we baked it in a pot with burning coal on the lid. It was my most favorite dessert because after the fall of Saigon, food was a little limited. I remember a few ingredients I used : palm sugar, duck eggs, coconut milk, vanilla extract and flour. I lost my recipe notebook when I left Vietnam. So thank you for this recipe. It will bring back good memory. It's called bánh gan because it looks like cut up fresh liver. A good bánh gan should have bubble like the one you made.

Anonymous said...

It’s the Viet version of creme caramel, that all it is.

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