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Recipes for Success: Vietnamese Banh Khuc

Recipes for Success: Vietnamese Banh Khuc

by Cameron Heffernan

I first had banh khuc at our house about a year or so ago when my mother-in-law was staying with us for an extended visit. It is a fairly well known street food staple, more commonly found in and around Vietnam’s capital, Ha Noi, in the north of the country, where my wife and mother-in-law are from.
Banh khuc in Vietnamese literally means mung bean cake. We would typically call it a dumpling, but there is nothing typical about this melt-in-your mouth dish. Like many Vietnamese dishes, banh khuc looks simple and goes down easily, but cooking it takes multiple steps and is very time consuming.
The recipe below has been vegetarian-ized, for my personal taste. But if you’d like to cook it with pork belly fat or bacon, you could mix it in with the mung bean. Both versions are delicious.
Once you have tasted this amazingly light but filling delicacy, I challenge you to eat just one. Chuc ngon mi eng! (bon appetit / enjoy the meal)!

Ingredients

(Makes 8 rice balls)

  • 280 grams of kale or 1 pack spinach (280 grams)
  • 130 grams of Mung beans, peeled
  • 250 grams glutinous rice
  • 130 grams glutinous rice flour
  • Cooking oil
  • Shallots
  • Salt and pepper (lots of pepper!)

Note: you can find all of these ingredients at an Asian grocery store

Instructions

Soak the glutinous rice and mung beans overnight or for at least 8 hours and drain both well. Put the mung beans in a pot and cover them with water. Ensure the pot is large enough so it doesn’t boil over. Boil until the mung beans become tender and the water has almost dried out. Use a fork or potato masher to mash the beans.
Fry the shallots with salt and a lot of pepper. Then mix the shallots with the mashed beans. Form the mixture into 8 balls, each about the size of a lemon.
Stir or blend together the spinach with 200ml of water and strain. Gradually add the spinach juice into the glutinous rice flour, little by little, mixing the batch well. Repeat until a consistent dough is formed and mix until flour is all incorporated. Then knead for another 2 minutes forming a soft sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 2 hours.
Form the dough into 8 balls of roughly half the size of the mung bean balls.

Flatten the balls out and put each piece into your hand. Then put a mung bean ball into the middle and cover the ball with the dough. Roll each sealed ball in the glutinous rice until it is thoroughly coated.
Line the container for steaming (you can use a bamboo steamer or a colander) with a thin layer of glutinous rice. Put the mung bean and dough balls into the container, ensuring each has enough space next to the other balls and are not cramped. Cover them all with some more rice on top.
Steam for 30 minutes or until the rice is well cooked. Serve while the rice balls are still warm (this part is key!)

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