My mom's baking techniques continue to amaze me each time I bite into her creations. For Lunar New Year (Tet), she gave us some banh bia (also referred to as banh pia), a Vietnamese mooncake that she made from scratch. In Saigon the pastry is called “banh bia”, but in Soc Trang and Vung Thom it is known by “banh pia”. Banh bia is sort of similar to the Cantonese mooncakes that most people are familiar with except it has a flaky crust and the outer layer peels. If you take a look at the photos, you'll notice the peeling action (click to enlarge).
If you search for banh bia on Google, you'll see photos that look completely different than mine. It's most recognizable with a red stamp on top and layers falling off. My mom doesn't like the way those look, so she made this variety instead. In recent years, I've noticed local Vietnamese bakeries changing the looks of traditional pastries into something more visually appealing and my mom is adapting and embracing the modern changes into her baking.
Two types of dough are required to make banh bia, one for the skin and one for the inner layer. Taro, durian, mung bean and lotus seeds are the four most commonly used fillings. I personally love the taro and durian flavors. It's like biting into a soft and flaky cake filled with a sweet paste.
We plan on taking a lesson with my mom to learn how to make this, so when I have that ready I'll share the recipe. In the meanwhile, you can try your luck and see if your local Vietnamese bakery makes them, some of them do. If you're willing to go to East San Jose, I know Van's Bakery and Euro Delight Bakery in Lion Plaza sells them in a few different varieties and flavors. Do not get any banh bia that's wholesale or prepackaged and sealed because they suck.
I am so thankful that she makes these a few times a year, so we get to enjoy them all year round.