It is a roll of oooey, gooey, melt in your mouth deliciousness. Imagine slices of pork, surrounded by mashed yellow beans, which is surrounded by yummy sticky rice, which is surrounded by banana leaf that has been steamed for hours. Pictures don’t do it justice – one must EAT Bánh tét BEFORE they judge. Even so, here’s a stock photo of it:
I’ve seen it online mentioned as “Vietnamese Rice Cakes”. If I had to roughly translate “Bánh tét” it would literally mean “New Years Cake”.
My grandmother was the QUEEN of making Bánh tét. Neither my mom nor my aunts can replicate (nor do they even try). Even knowing this, my cousins Lisa and Phuong decided that they wanted to try. Ha! Obviously, they (and I) knew they would never match the greatness of my grandmother’s cooking. Still, I offered up my house for this experiment.
I did not do my homework, but I’m sure glad Lisa did. Lisa came to my house with all of the ingredients ready for cooking. There was some overnight preparation that had to be done (thank you Lisa). This dish is a very time intensive recipe, 8 hours of simmering….what??!!! I should have read the recipe beforehand.
Here’s how its done:
1. Soak sticky rice in water.
2. Cut pork belly in 4 x 1 inch strips. Marinade by putting 1 tsp of salt.
Day of Preparation:
1. Soak mung beans in water. Try to remove transparent shells from mung beans as best as you can. If not, no worries.
2. Drain the sticky rice from the water. Again, sprinkle 1 tsp of salt over it.
3. Cut and dry the banana leafs into 12 x 12 inch sections. Cut off the leaf edges of the banana leaf.
4. Julienne the shallots to thin slices.
5. Take a tbsp of vegetable oil, then brown the shallots in them until barely golden:
Putting it together:
1. Lay a 15 inch ribbon down.
2. Lay a banana leaf with the veins perpenidicular to the ribbon. Lay another layer of banana leaf the same direction as the first one. Both of these should be the waxy side down.
3. Lay the last layer of banana leaf perpendicular to the other ones. This time, wax side up.
4. Place a cup of the rice down on the wax side. Then place the mung beans, followed by a strip of the pork. Then cover it with the mung beans again, followed by the rice. (Ignore the color of the mung beans in this photo. Lisa did something weird with them, but they were fine.)
6. Lastly, you must boil water in a large tall pot. Put the cakes into the pot, and bring it to a rolling boil. Then, simmer for SIX TO EIGHT hours.
7. Then eat!!!
This is how ours turned out. Not perfect, but when we got our forks in the first batch – it was still just as delicious (as close to our grandma’s…not quite). We told ourselves we’ll get better through the years. Heck, our grandmother had a century to perfect hers! You wouldn’t even begin to understand my excitement for these. Asian grocery stores typically have each of these cakes for $15 a piece – and really aren’t that great. The ones we made, not to brag, were PHENOMENAL.
These are high caloric dishes. I’m pretty sure 1 “6 inch” roll would be about 1,000 calories. I could eat 5 in one sitting. Truth. I’ve done it in the past.
We decided to let our kids be the source of truth as our reviewers. Verdict: They loved it!
Aubrey was recovering from a little sickness over the weekend. She had hardly eaten anything all weekend because of her congestion. But one bite of Bánh tét had her coming back to Aunt Phuong for more. She’s her mother’s daughter.
I am soooo excited and thrilled that my cousins decided to come over and leave me with left overs!!!! So we decided to do this ever year. And name the event “Sisterhood of the Travelling Mung Beans”.
[Please excuse the elliptical and the ladder in the background. Our house is still under renovation….which Ryan has decided to prolong to a decade long project. The story is for another blog post.]
What is YOUR favorite dish from your family’s heritage that you’ve tried to re-create??