Square Sticky Rice and Mung Bean Cakes (Banh Chung)

Scrumptious Tet/Lunar New Year Dish: Square Sticky Rice and Mung Bean Cakes (Banh Chung) | recipe from runawayrice.comVietnamese Lunar New Year wouldn’t be complete without these savory cakes made of a mung bean and pork filling encased in sticky rice. Often wrapped in banana leaves and artfully tied with colorful string, these hearty cakes have a distinct square shape and festive appeal. The banana leaves impart a wonderful aroma and lovely color to the rice making this cake pleasing to all the senses. The making of these cakes is a labor of love. Yes, they are time-consuming to make and there aren’t many shortcuts but, the effort is all worth it. You’ll love the artistry involved and your family and friends will surely appreciate your efforts. Give it a try friends. Happy Lunar New Year!

Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks

For the card stock, I used a manila folder.

You can make the 4″ square form using cardboard or purchase a 4-inch square box from your office supply store and then cut to size.

The food mold/cutter used to make the filling should be between 3 1/2 – 3 3/4-inches. You can make one of these using cardboard or use anything close in size, like food storage containers.

When selecting banana leaves, choose sections with the spine. This will give the leaf more support and structure. When cutting the leaves with the 8-inch by 9-inch template, include the spine in the 8″ length.

When folding the banana leaves, keep the following rule in mind: For the first 2 leaves, put the shiny, darker green side facing out. This will make the cakes look prettier. For the remaining 2 leaves, have the shiny, darker green sides facing in so the lovely essence is imparted into the rice.

When making the filling squares, if the mashed mung bean is too crumbly, pop in the microwave for 30 seconds and it will be more spreadable.

Keep the filling in the freezer until you’re ready to use. When wrapping the cakes, I take out one filling piece at a time. They’re easier to work with when they are frozen.

I recommend using a fattier cut of pork in this recipe. The fat melts off during cooking and seeps into the rice making it really tasty.

Use a small spatula or butter knife to push the rice evenly to the corners. This will help to make the cake look square.

Avoid tying the string to tightly–just enough to hold everything together. Leave room for the glutinous rice to expand.

Don’t use too much weight when pressing the cakes. This will cause the sides of the cake to balloon and the cake won’t be square.

If banana leaves are difficult to find, substitute with bamboo leaves or corn husks. Optionally, you can wrap with parchment paper or foil. If you can find small amounts of banana leaves, line the parchment paper with a few pieces and this will impart the lovely banana leaf essence into the cake.

An alternative to pressure cooking is boiling on the stove. Boil using Medium Low heat for 4 hours. Make sure the cakes are completely submerged in water during the entire cooking process. Use a heavy bowl or plate to weight it down. Also, check the water levels every hour and add boiling water as needed. Never add cold water to the pot. This makes the glutinous rice hard and will ruin the cake.

After the cakes are pressed, wrap each cake with plastic wrap to prevent the banana leaves from drying out. The cakes can be kept a room temperature for 1-2 days. Refrigerate any remaining portions and enjoy within the week. Freeze the whole cakes (still wrapped in banana leaves) for up to 6 months.

Watch the video for instructions.

If you enjoyed this recipe you may also like: Sticky Rice and Mung Bean Cakes (Banh Tet) and Sticky Rice Coated with Mung Bean (Xoi Vo).

Ingredients

3 cups long-grained glutinous rice (also called sweet or sticky rice)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup peeled split mung bean
1 1/2 cups water
1 lb pork butt
2 shallots
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

2-16 oz packages banana leaves, cleaned

Other Materials
8-inch X 9-inch piece of card stock
4-inch X 4-inch piece of card stock
2-inch X 10-inch piece of card stock
3 3/4-inch square food mold
4-8 foot length string or twine
foil, plastic wrap
ruler

Directions

Use the 8-inch X 9-inch template to cut out 16 sheets of banana leaf. Use the 4-inch X 4-inch template to cut out 4 pieces of banana leaf. Use the 2-inch X 10-inch to cut out 8 strips of banana leaf.

Cut the pork into 1/2-inch thick slices and then cut into smaller pieces.

Peel and chop the shallots. Add the shallots into a bowl along with the sugar, fish sauce, and black pepper.  Stir together. Add the pork and combine well. Cover the bowl and then refrigerate overnight.

Wash the mung bean by swirling in a bowl of cold water and then drain the rinse water. Repeat 2 more times or until the water is mostly clear. Fill the bowl with cold water and let the beans soak overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Wash the glutinous rice by swirling in a bowl of cold water and then drain the rinse water. Repeat 2 more times or until the water is mostly clear. Fill the bowl with cold water and let the rice soak overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Rinse the mung bean one more time and then drain well. Transfer to a rice cooker. Add 1/2 tsp salt and the water. Spread out the beans into an even layer. Set to Cook. When the rice cooker switches over to the Keep Warm function, approximately 20 minutes later, mash the mung bean using a paddle spoon. Transfer the mashed mung bean onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape into an 8-inch long log. Measure and cut into 8, 1-inch pieces.

Cover the work surface with a piece of plastic wrap. Place a piece of the mashed mung bean into the food mold and spread out so it’s flat. Add 4 oz marinated pork on top of the mung bean. Add another piece of mashed mung bean on top of the pork and spread out covering the pork and filling out the mold. Remove the mold. Wrap the filling in plastic wrap. Repeat these steps to make the remaining 3 fillings. Place the filling in the freezer.

Drain the glutinous rice using a colander. Gently toss the rice to remove the remaining water. Add 1 tsp salt and combine. Divide the rice into 4 equal portions.

Fold the banana leaves (as shown in the video) and arrange in the 4-inch cardboard form. Add a heaping 1/3 cup rice. Smooth out the rice so it covers the bottom completely. Add the mung bean and pork filling. Add another heaping 1/3 cup rice. Push the rice to the sides around the filling. Tap the sides to settle the rice. Add the remaining rice and smooth out the top. Add the remaining banana leaf square on top of the rice. Fold down the leaves as you would a present. Tie the cake using the string. (See video for demonstration.) Repeat these steps to make the remaining 3 cakes.

Wrap the cakes in foil. Place the cakes into a pressure cooker.  Fill the cooker to the maximum line with boiling water. Cover with the lid. Set to High Pressure cook for 90 minutes. After the high pressure cook is completed, allow the cakes to continue cooking using the Keep Warm function for another 90 minutes.

Pour out the hot water from the cooker and fill with cold water. Let the cakes soak for 10 minutes.

Unwrap the foil and transfer the cakes to a bowl of cold water. Gently rinse the cakes and then pat dry.

Cover a baking dish with a towel and place the cakes inside. Cover the cakes with another towel. Place a cutting board on top and then place 2-4 lb bags of sugar on top. Press the cakes for 6-8 hours.

To serve, unwrap the cakes and discard the banana leaves. Cut the cake using twine. (See the video for a demonstration.)

Enjoy the Square Sticky Rice ad Mung Bean Cakes with Dried Carrot and Radish Pickles. They go together wonderfully!

Yields: 4 cakes

Scrumptious Sticky Rice Cakes with Mung Bean and Pork (Banh Chung) | recipe from runawayrice.com

Tools I Love and Use in My Kitchen

Check out the below posts for more delicious Lunar New Year’s recipes:

Steamed Rice Cakes and Pork Roll (Banh Day)

Jellied Pork (Thịt Đông)

Pickled Mustard Greens (Dua Cai Chua)

Chewy Sesame Peanut Candy (Keo Me Dau Phong)

Candied Orange Peels (Mut Vo Cam)

Sticky Rice Balls in Ginger Syrup (Che Troi Nuoc)

Must-Have for Lunar New Year: Square Sticky Rice and Mung Bean Cakes (Banh Chung) | recipe from runawayrice.com
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16 Responses to Square Sticky Rice and Mung Bean Cakes (Banh Chung)

  1. Joanna Conner February 9, 2017 at 5:19 am #

    Thank you so much for the easy recipe i did them this week it was great… the only issue I had while making these were wrapping them but overall it’s a great recipe… Thank you again.

    • Trang February 10, 2017 at 8:13 am #

      Hi Joanna, I am glad you made these yummy cakes to enjoy. The wrapping can be challenging but I am sure the next time around it’ll be easier! 🙂

  2. Lien January 29, 2017 at 2:36 am #

    I made banh chung for the lunar new year. Not only they looked good, they tasted awesome too. My whole family loved them. The best banh chung I’ve ever had. Thank you for your recipe.

    • Trang February 4, 2017 at 6:09 pm #

      Hi Lien,
      Great job to you! I am so happy to hear you were successful with making banh chung! Thanks for trying my recipe. 🙂

  3. Lucy January 28, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

    Hi Chi Trang!

    First off, Chuc Mung Nam Moi!! 🙂
    I don’t remember how I first stumbled upon your blog but I have to let you know that I love it and THANK YOU for sharing all these wonderful recipes! Some Vietnamese dishes are intimidating but your videos and blogs are awesome and really make me feel comfortable in trying to create these traditional dishes. Banh chung is my absolute favorite and I JUST finished cooking them in hopes of surprising my family with them as a gift for Tet. Question: does it absolutely have to be pressed for 6-8hrs? What happens if you only press it for 4 or 5 hours? Thank you Chi! I’ve also made your recipe for nem nuong and it was delicious! May you have a blessed year with an abundance of happiness, great health and delicious food!

    • Trang February 4, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

      Hi Lucy,
      Chuc Mung Nam Moi! 🙂 Sorry for the late response, I took a few days off to celebrate Tet. Pressing for 4 to 5 hours is just fine. You can use slightly more weight to speed up the process.
      I hope your Banh Chung turned out well and your family enjoyed the yummy surprise. Thanks for trying my nem nuong recipe. Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017!

  4. Trang Nguyen January 26, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

    Thank You Trang! You are a great teacher!

    • Trang January 28, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

      You’re welcome Trang. I appreciate your kind words. 🙂

  5. Dee January 15, 2017 at 9:25 pm #

    Thanks Trang for sharing. You made it look so easy and beautiful.
    I may try it some day, yeah some day 😉

    All the best to you and and your family.

    Dee

    • Trang January 16, 2017 at 11:15 am #

      Hi Dee,
      I hope you do make banh chung some day. You’ll be very pleased with your accomplishments. 🙂

  6. Ann January 14, 2017 at 7:14 am #

    Hello chi Trang, thank you so very much for ‘demystifying’ the process of making banh chung! It does not seem so hard. Maybe a bit time consuming. You see, in the last several years, my dad and mom would set out to make banh chung a few weeks before Viet New Year. They would make just enough for us kids, a few extras for themselves, my aunt and my mom in law. Let me tell you, it was a big production! They would make about 15 banh chung. These savory cakes would be cooking for hours on a gas stove on the side of the house. My dad would tell us about the labor of love that goes into washing and drying tons of banana leaves, soaking the rice, mung beans, marinading the pork…..let’s not forget waking up in the middle of the night to refill the huge pot with boiling water. Did I mention my dad make his own mold with wood? As you can see, it was a joint production between my dad and my mom. Needless to say, receiving the cooked savory cakes from my parents were priceless! Sadly, my dad passed away 2 years ago. While we still miss him terribly, celebrating Viet New Year becomes more poignant each year . Thank you for showing us how to make the savory cake at home. I am definitely going to try making it at home one day. I think my dad would be so proud of me for continuing the tradition at home. Thank you so very much for all the effort you put into putting the video and recipe together! Happy New Year to you and your family!

    • Trang January 14, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

      Hi Ann,
      This is a truly heart-warming story. I hope you continue the tradition. It would be a lovely way to honor your Dad and he would be so proud. From your story, he sounded like a master banh chung maker and your parents’ effort to make the cakes and share with the family was definitely a labor of love. Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

      • Ann January 15, 2017 at 5:42 am #

        Hello chi Trang, thank you for your kind words! I will see to it that anyone who knows me knows about your blog. Please keep on blogging!

        • Trang January 16, 2017 at 11:13 am #

          Thank you Ann! 🙂

  7. Hong January 12, 2017 at 9:59 am #

    Thanks, chi Trang! You made it so easy to do! Love your step by step instructions. Happy new year to you and your family! Wishing you all with good health, lots of happiness, and a prosperous new year!:)

    • Trang January 12, 2017 at 3:58 pm #

      Hi Hong,
      Banh Chung isn’t difficult to make. I know you can do it. 🙂 Best wishes to you and your family for a new year filled with love, health and happiness!

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