Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vietnamese Rice Cakes in Banana Leaves

yield: Makes 1 cake or 4 servings

Banh chung

Editor's note: The recipe and introductory text below are excerpted from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham and are part...



  • 1 3/4 cups sticky (glutinous) rice, preferably long-grain

  • 1 drop of green food coloring (optional)

  • 1/4 cup dried split mung beans

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 5 ounces pork shoulder or butt, cut into 1/4-inch-thick chunks

  • 1 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.

Editor's Note: Mai Pham says the rice cakes will feel "plump and soft" when they are finished cooking. You can reduce the cooking time to about four hours by precooking the rice. Pham says to toast the soaked, drained rice in a nonstick pan over medium heat until it is dry and looks opaque.

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Monday, May 23, 2011


This recipe is sooo tasty (especially with Naan Bread)

-heat 3 egg plants in the oven at 350 degrees celcius for 1 hour (or until soft)
-blend with salt, garlic and oil (however you want)

voila, babaganoush !

Bon appetit