Monday, August 11, 2008

Bánh Tét - Vietnamese Sticky Rice Cakes

We ususally have Bánh Tét on Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration. This is a must have food on the New Year Day. These sticky rice cakes are wrapped in banana leaves. Banana leaves give a great flavor to the sticky rice. The center consists of buttery mung bean and small pieces of pork and pork fat. The filling is simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and a touch of fish sauce.

These can be served with tangy, sweet pungent pickled shallots and garlicky pickled daikon. I just made two sticky rice cakes today.

I am frying them right now for dinner.

Want to try a piece?

Here are the rest of them.

1 3/4 cups sticky (glutinous) rice, preferably long-grain1
drop of green food coloring (optional)
1/4 cup dried split mung beans
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped shallots1
1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
5 ounces pork shoulder or butt, cut into 1/4-inch-thick chunks1
1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 (14" x 16") sheets plastic wrap plus extra
1 (14" x 16") sheet aluminum foil
2 (14" x 14") pieces banana leaf


1. Place the sticky rice in a large bowl and cover it with 3 inches of water. Stir in the food coloring, if using, and let the rice soak overnight. (Once soaked, the rice will double to about 4 cups.) In a separate bowl, soak the mung beans for at least 4 hours. Drain both just before using and set aside in separate bowls. Add the salt to the rice and stir to blend.
2. Combine the shallots, fish sauce, black pepper and pork pieces and let marinate for 30 minutes.
3. Heat the oil in a frying pan over moderate heat. Add the pork pieces and all the marinade and stir just until the meat is brown around the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
4. Using a steamer basket, steam the mung beans until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
5. To make the packet, neatly lay down the wrappers in this order: 1 sheet of plastic wrap (leave the other for use later), the aluminum foil, 2 sheets banana leaves (one perpendicular to the other). Place one cup of the rice in the center of the banana leaf, spreading it to cover a 5-inch square. Place half of the mung beans on top, then add the pork pieces. Cover with the remaining mung beans and place 1 cup of rice on top. Bring the narrow sides of the wrappers together. Fold the gathered edges over twice, then flatten against the packet. (You now have two open ends.) Fold one end over and hold the packet upright. Add half of the remaining rice, tapping it and pushing it down so the packet will be an even square. Fold the end over and repeat on the other side.
6. Place the packet with the folded sides down in the center of the remaining plastic sheet. Wrap tightly so that water will not seep into the packet during cooking.
7. Tightly tie the packet with two parallel strings in both directions (as in a tic-tac-toe pattern).
8. Fill a large stockpot with water. Add the packet and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Place a colander or something heavy on top of the packet to keep it submerged in the water. Cook uncovered until done, about 6 hours, adding more water if necessary. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 1 hour.
9. To serve, cut the packet (without unwrapping) into 1/2-inch slices. Remove the wrapping and arrange the slices on a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. If wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, the cake will keep for 1 week.

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