Durian Mooncakes. Sau Rieng Banh Pia Chay

I’ve mentioned before that Vietnam was one of my favorite countries to eat in. Not only was vegan food easy to find, but it was also cheap, healthy, and popular with locals. And though I loved pho, banh xeo, bun cha gio, banh bao, bun hue, cao lau, and sua dau nanh, my very favorite food in all of Vietnam was undoubtedly sau rieng banh pia chay, or vegan durian-filled mooncakes.
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Food in Vietnam, like most non-Western countries, is stubbornly regional. This means that a dish that is a specialty of one city in Vietnam will likely only be found in that city, and so it is with sau rieng banh pia. These mooncakes are local to Soc Trang in southern Vietnam, the Mekong Delta region. They are so stubbornly regional, that I struggled to find them again even in any other city in the Mekong Delta. The first time I encountered them was in a VVR (Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant) in Soc Trang after an acquaintance pointed them out as a local specialty. It only took one bite for me to become hooked.
I already knew of my undying love for durian, but fresh durian is a different beast from preserved, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with these banh pia. The pastry outside is flaky and mild-tasting so it doesn’t compete with the flavorful filling. Its role seems to be to provide a pleasant and light texture. The filling is a dense paste of green beans (yes, that’s the translation. I suspect they are just the inner peas themselves that have been cooked and mashed. Remember, in this part of the world, beans are just as often used in desserts as in savory dishes.) mixed with durian and sugar. The green peas themselves are not noticeable; they provide a subtle backdrop for the more intense flavor of the sweet and creamy durian.
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How much do I love sau rieng banh pia chay? Enough that when I find myself in or near Vietnam, I will certainly be making a special trip to the Mekong Delta just for these mooncakes.

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