The story of Phuoc Thanh Bakery’s bánh cam (aka – jian dui, aka – sesame balls) is a love story between the husband-and-wife team, baker Danny Nguyen and manager Anne Nguyen. It’s a story about a Vietnamese boy and a Chinese-Vietnamese girl, the girl’s Chinese grandmother, an introduction to Chinese bakeries, the eventual perfection by the boy of the fried, chewy, sesame-coated spheres filled with starchy bean paste, and the boy finally putting it on the menu of a 16-year-old Vietnamese bakery in 2015 on Victoria Street.
It’s also a love story between the sesame balls and the people who line up every weekend and purchase the sell-out dessert. Only 200 balls are made per week, filled with either a mung bean or red bean paste, encased in rice flour and glutinous rice pastry, shaped by hand, rolled in sesame, and submerged in hot oil until they puff up and turn golden.
The result is a crisp, nutty, mochi-like crust yielding to a sweet bean filling, which produces the highly favourable sticky-starchy mouthfeel synonymous with popular Chinese sweets. It doesn’t matter who you know, the only way to secure your sesame ball is to make sure you’re at the front of the line come lunchtime.
Phuoc Thanh Bakery, 206 Victoria St, Richmond, facebook.com/phuocthanhbakery
By Jess Ho