I often tell people that Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam, is tailor-made for cycling. All right, so the roads aren’t always great (see this post as proof), but the drivers are accustomed to cyclists, the hotels are cheap, the scenery is phenomenal, and the food is amazing and very suitable for vegans. The snacks especially are plentiful and healthy, providing the perfect source of long-lasting energy.
In Cambodia, if you see a roadside grill like this, pull over. Immediately.
At first I was too shy to buy any of these little packets as I wasn’t sure what was inside them. But soon I realized that at about $0.12 each, I could afford to take a gamble and open one up, hoping for a vegan filling! There’s something remotely Christmas-like about peeling away the charred layers of banana leaf to reveal the treat inside.
This particular variety (called something like An Som or Anksom) are popular near Kratie. The most common type is as pictured above—sweet sticky rice boiled with coconut milk and a hint of salt wrapped around a banana and then grilled. The rice becomes chewy and a bit crunchy while the banana practically melts and caramelizes. Beautiful. I also found these stuffed with taro and (my very favorite) shredded jackfruit.
Here’s a snack I was only able to find once in Vietnam, though I searched for it many times as it was truly the perfect cycling boost.
I’ve searched for more information in vain, but here’s what I can tell you about it. It was a chewy confection made from black sticky rice, black beans, fresh ginger, a bit of sugar, and topped with white sesame seeds. It filled me with energy and protein without weighing me down and the fresh ginger was an unexpected and invigorating touch.
Another one of my favorite cycling snacks in Camboda is krolan—sticky rice with coconut cream and black beans stuffed in a bamboo tube and cooked for hours over low heat. It’s labor-intensive work, as the tubes must be constantly monitored and turned to prevent burning. But the result is unique and delicious, and as with the above snacks as well, the packaging is sustainable and biodegradable—perfect for when you’re on the bike!