If you’ve ever travelled to the Middle Vietnam, visiting the places such as Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, etc. you may have come across these steamed rice cakes. The name in Vietnamese is "banh beo". They used to be the street food of ordinary people, but nowadays, they are served in the restaurants as well as a kind of regional specialities.
In Vietnam, there are a large variety of steamed cakes, most of which are made from rice flour, glutinous rice flour, or tapioca flour. They are either wrapped in green leaves such as banana leaves or steamed uncovered. These steamed cakes in particular have many versions, depending on which provinces they are originated from.
I made a trip to visit some Southern cities of Vietnam last December, and I got to eat these cakes twice, and of course they are different kinds. Mostly the toppings and dipping sauce make the difference. Instead of dried shrimps, fresh shrimps are used and made into sponge dried shrimp meat. The dipping sauce is either thin or thick, using either pure water or water from boiling the shrimps.
There are two common things. Firstly, these cakes are steamed in small shallow dishes and served in the dishes themselves. Unlike what you are seeing in my photos, because I removed the cakes from the dishes that I poured the batter in to steam. Why? It’s because I had only two such dishes, they are not exactly the type of dishes used for these cakes but somehow quite similar. So, each batch I could steam only two cakes. After that I had to remove the cakes from the dishes and started another batch. Secondly, the cakes are sometimes oily. The green onions are cooked in oil or ghee, then topped on the cakes. I tried to make a healthy version of the cake, so I didn’t fry the spring onion with oil but sprinkle them over the cakes only.
Ingredients and cooking methods:
* Steamed rice cake:
- 200g rice flour
- 20g tapioca flour
- 500ml water
=> Mix all the ingredients together. Let stand for 30 minutes. Just before steaming, stir in 1/4 tsp salt.
* Pork and dried shrimps topping:
- 150g minced pork
- 50g small dried shrimps
- 1/2 tbs fish sauce
- 1/8 tsp ground pepper
- little oil
- green onions, chopped
=> Soak the dried shrimps in water for 20 minutes to soften. Combine the pork with fish sauce and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet, add the dried shrimps and marinated minced pork to the skillet and stir-fry quickly until cooked through. Remove from the heat. Mix in the chopped green onions.
- Prepare several small shallow dishes put in the large steaming pot over high heat. When the water boils, pour tablespoons of the rice flour mixture into the dishes up to 2/3 full. Cover the steam for about 5 minutes. Continue with the next batches until all the batter is used up.
- If you don’t have many spare dishes, you may remove the steamed cakes from the dishes and place on large serving plate. Then return the dishes to the steaming pot and continue with the other batches.
- Before serving, top the cakes with pork and shrimp mixture right at the centre of each cake.
* Dipping sauce:
- Make the dipping sauce with fish sauce, drinking water, lime juice, sugar and chili. Adjust the seasonings so that the sauce is just lightly salty, with the balance of sweetness and sourness.
- Dip the cakes into the sauce and enjoy them at the same time.