These delicious cakes are a must-have food for Vietnamese New Year/Tet. There are many variations on the filling, some sweet and others savory. This recipe is the savory version with a mung bean and pork filling. Unlike their square-shaped siblings (Square Sticky Rice and Mung Bean Cakes (Banh Chung), these cakes are smaller, cylindrical and overall easier to make. If you live in an area populated with lots of Asians, you’ll find these cakes everywhere, especially around this time of the year. It may be tempting to just buy them but if you have the time, I strongly encourage you to make these at home. They are amazing when homemade! The glutinous rice is soft and sticky when freshly made and you can season the filling to your tastes. Plus, making these cakes is a fun activity and a wonderful opportunity to get the whole family involved. No arguments, these cakes are time-consuming to make but when you take that first bite of the cake you’ll agree the effort was all worth it. Happy New Year!!
If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also like: Square Sticky Rice and Mung Bean Cakes (Banh Chung).
3/4 lb pork belly
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp minced shallots
1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
3 cups mashed mung beans
16 oz package frozen banana leaves
6 cups sticky rice (also called glutinous or sweet rice)
Cut pork belly into 1-inch wide strips and then trim so each piece is 5 inches long. Optionally, remove the pork skin and discard.
Combine pork with black pepper, sugar, salt, shallots and fish sauce. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Lay a piece of plastic wrap on your work surface. Take 3/4 cup of the mung beans and divide it in half. Spread each mung bean half out until it’s about 5 inches long. Place the marinated pork on top of one of the mung bean strips. Place the other mung bean strip on top. Press the mung beans around the pork and then shape into a log. Roll up the logs in plastic wrap. Measure the log and make sure they’re approximately 5 inches. Freeze the logs overnight.
Tape together 2 sheets of 8 1/2 X 11 inch paper to form an 11-inch square.
Thaw banana leaves at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Gently unfold the banana leaves. Using the paper template, cut out 12 sheets of banana leaves (3 sheets per cake). Cut a few extra sheets just in case some tear while washing.
Clean the banana leaves by washing both sides in hot water. Wipe both sides of the leaves dry with paper towels. Moisten 2 large pieces of paper towels and place the leaves in between the towels. Place the cleaned banana leaves back into the original bag and then seal the bag with tape. Refrigerate the banana leaves until they’re ready to use.
Wash the rice by rinsing with cool water until the water runs clear. Fill the basin with water and allow the rice to soak overnight.
The amount of sticky rice in this recipe is generous and you will have some leftover. I adjusted the rice to consider several important variables: 1) brand of rice 2) soaking time, 3) size of filling logs 4) amount of rice preferred in cakes. Each cakes uses approximately 2 cups of sticky rice. You can add up to another 1/2 cup per cake and have enough rice for all 4 cakes. My cakes measure: Diameter: 2 3/4 inches, Circumference: 8 3/4 inches, Height: 7 inches
When tying the cakes with string, use a moderate amount of tension. The string should be tight enough to hold everything together put not so tight that it creases the banana leaves. You should be able to slide the string with your fingers if needed.
The technique for tying the string is what makes the cake so unique and eye-catching. However, if working with string is not your forte, simply make a series of simple knots around the cake.
You need a pretty big pot to cook these cakes. The one I have is 20 quarts. The pot should be at least 3 inches taller than the cakes to allow room for water. If you don’t have a pot that is tall enough, you can lay the cakes on their sides and cook them this way.
Be sure to use a heavy lid, bowl or plate to weigh down the cakes. The cakes need to be submerged in water during the entire cooking process.
Check the water levels every hour and add more water as needed. When adding water to pot, only use boiling water. Do not add lukewarm or cold water to the pot. This will stop the cakes from cooking and ruin them.
Some people hang their cakes after cooking to allow the water to drip out of the cakes. If you wrap the cakes in a generous amount of foil, the water won’t seep into the cake and there’s no need to hang them dry.
These cakes are typically served at room temperature. If not eaten within a 1 or 2 days, put them in the refrigerator. They’ll keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Freeze any remaining cakes for up to 6 months.
Have lots of leftover cake? A different way to enjoy leftover cakes is to pan-fry them until they are golden brown on both sides.
If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also like: Sticky Rice and Mung Bean (Xoi Vo).
6 cups sticky rice soaked overnight (approximately 9 cups rice)
4 mung bean and pork filling logs (Part 1 for recipe)
12-11×11 inch sheets of banana leaves, washed and trimmed (see Part 1 above)
2 tsp of salt
4-16 inch lengths of string
4-9 feet lengths of string
Remove filling logs from the freezer.
Rinse rice with water one more time. Drain in colander. Toss rice in colander to remove remaining water. Add salt and combine with rice.
Place a 16-inch piece of string vertically on your work surface.
Place the first banana leaf on the work surface with the shiny side down and veins running horizontally. Place the second banana leaf on top of the first in the same way. Place the third banana leaf on top of the other 2 leaves with the shiny side up and veins running vertically.
Place 1/2 cup of rice on the center of the banana leaves. Spread out the rice so it’s 1/4-inch high and just a bit bigger than the filling log. Place the filling log on top of the rice. Bring the edges of the banana leaves up and together. Hold one end together with one hand. Add 1/2 cup of rice on top of the filling log. Use a spoon to add more rice to the sides of the cake and smooth out the top. Try to encase the filling in an even amount of rice.
Firmly wrap the bottom portion of the banana leaves around the rice. Bring the top portion of the leaves down and wrap firmly around the cake. Tie the string around the middle of the cake to hold the leaves in place.
Fold the leaves over on the one end and then stand the cake up. Pat the cake with your palms to settle the rice. Add more rice and cover the filling completely. Fold the banana leaves covering the end completely. Place the cake on the folded end now. Repeat the same process of adding rice and folding the banana leaves.
Tie the cakes with securely with string. (Please see video for this part.) Continue until all 4 cakes are made. Wrap cakes in a generous amount of foil.
Place the cakes into a large pot standing each cake on its end. Fill the pot with water until it almost covers the cakes. Place a heavy lid or plate on top of the cakes. Add more water until the cakes are completely immersed in water. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to Low and cook for 4 hours. Check water level every 1 hours and add boiling water as needed. After 2 hours flip the cakes.
After 4 hours, remove from pot. Remove the foil and rinse each cake with cool water. Dry the cakes with a kitchen towel, wrap in plastic wrap and allow to cool.
When ready to serve, unwrap the banana leaves, slice the cake into thick slices and enjoy with Dried Carrot and Radish Pickles.
Yields: 4 cakes