Vietspices Search

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bánh Cam (Orange Sesame Ball)

This beautiful, delectable, low key sweet treat is very common in Viet Nam. It's made of mainly sweet rice gluten wrapped around a ball of mung bean paste and coated in sesame seeds. After the deep fry, its gorgeous orange color makes you want to sink your teeth into its crunchy nutty shell.

My husband is very picky on banh cam. It has to be crunchy, but not too chewy; the dough has to be tasty. The filling has to have the right amount of sweetness, aroma and softness. He prefers it in a smaller size so each bite contains both dough and filling. 

Last weekend, we spent the Vietnamese New Year with my parents in So Cal. We had banh cam from a couple of diffrent places. My husband really likes banh cam from a lady who sold it on the street at the New Year parade. Her banh cam are about walnut size, but packed with flavor and a hearty crunch; they were quite delicious. My husband kept some for the next day just to see if the crispiness of the shell would last; turns out it lasts for 2 days. We never had banh cam like these before. Unfortunately, we were not able to find these at any of the markets nor did we find the lady. With banh cam, it's all about the crunch and the flavor of the filling.

Just to sastify my husband's craving, I decided to do some research on banh cam. Last night, I finally got my recipe down and started to experiment with the help of my oldest daughter. 

We made 90 golf-ball size banh cam. The filling is mung bean paste and shredded coconut. The result was better than we had anticipated; they were crunchy, soft, flavorful, but not oily at all. My banh cam is still so crispy after I leave it out for a day. In the middle of the night, my daughter woke up from her sleep to ask for them only to fall back to sleep seconds later; it was hilarious. She ate at least 6 of them for breakfast the following day.

This time I record a part of the process. Thanks to my dear husband who surprised me with a brand new 12 megapixel camera which has the ability to record HD video to replace the antique 4.0 megapixel point and shoot Minolta. 

Play this video clip on How to make Banh Cam Balls. There's a part in this video that is a bit shaky. Sorry guys, I had to make the pastries and recorded it myself, so the quality control isn't perfect.
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RECIPE: Bánh Cam

1 bag Glutinous Rice Flour, 16 oz or about 4 1/2 cups (bột nếp)
3 tablespoons of Rice Flour (bột gạo)
2 teaspoons of Baking Powder
1 3/4 cups of Water.
1 1/4 cup of Sugar
2 tablespoon of Oil
3/4 cup of Mashed Potato, boiled a fresh potato, removed skin and mashed it
or 1/2 cup of potatoes flake
2 teaspoons of pure Vanilla Extract
1 bag of White Sesame Seeds

Bring water, sugar and oil to boil. Add mashed potato or potatoes flake and stir it. Remove from heat. Add vanilla extract and let it cool down for about 5 minutes. Pour the mixture through the strainer, smash the mashed potatoe in the strainer. Scrape mashed potato off the outside of the strainer. If you use potatoes flake, you don't need to use the strainer.

Empty a bag of glutinous rice flour in a large bowl. Add rice flour and baking powder. Mix all these ingredients well. Pour the warm mixture into flour and kneed it for 15 minutes until dough doesn't stick to the bowl. Divide dough into your own size of balls. Set it aside.


1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 bag of Peeled and Split Mung Beans (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/4 cup of Sugar 
2 cups of Grated Coconut, optional
2 tablespoons of oil 
2 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon of Salt

Soak mung beans overnight so it is quicker to cook them but this step is optional. Rinse and drain the beans. In a pot, add 2 1/2 cups of water and bring it to boil. Cook mung beans the same way you cook steamed rice. Reduce the heat to low, stir it and cook with lid on for about 15 minutes or until soft. Mash it.

Add the remaining ingredients to the mung beans pot. The mung beans now are mushy because of the sugar we just added in. Bring it back to the stove and simmer it until it's thick. Make sure to stir it constantly so the mung beans won't stick to the pot. Cool off the mixture in room temperature. Divide beans paste into balls equally to the dough balls.
Prepare Pastry Balls

Take a ball of dough, and roll it with your palms to make ball, then flatten it.
Take a bean paste ball, put in the middle of the round flat dough.
Close the dough to make a ball.
Roll the ball in sesame seeds.
Heat a pot of oil at high. To test the heat of the oil, dip a chopstick into the oil. If you see bubbles rise around the chopstick, your frying oil is hot enough.
Reduce heat to medium. Deep fry the pastry until it's golden and puffy. It takes about 15 minutes.
Remove it and set it on a few paper towels to dry off the oil.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bánh Giò (Vietnamese Pork Pyramid Dumpling)

I love banh gio wrapped in banana leaf. As you may know, the Vietnamese people wrap every kind of food in banana leaves; it may as well be our national baking wrap . . . and with good reasons. To me, the broad lush green leaf symbolizes the country's vitality, youth, beauty and the abundance of banana trees. But more importantly, with respect to cooking, it imparts a natural beauty, freshness, and flavor to anything that it surrounds. Take for example bánh chưng, bánh tét, bánh ú and of course the featured recipe bánh giò.

Although it's used ubiquitously, this is my first time using the banana leaf to wrap. So I sought the help of my mother-in-law who has been making bánh ú and bánh tét using this leaf all her life. After a few tries, it came very naturally and I was able to finish the entire batch with ease. It was a tremendously fun and satifying experience. Now I can wrap anything with banana leaves :-). So go ahead, have fun at it!
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RECIPE: Bánh Giò

2 pounds of ground pork
1 small bag of dried black fungus aka wood ear mushrooms (Nấm mèo), finely chopped
2 onion, diced
7 teaspoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of pepper
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
2 tablespoons of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons of fried shallots (hành phi)

Heat the wok and add 1 tablespoon oil in the wok on medium-high heat. Stir in the  garlic until lightly browned.  Add onion and black fungus.  Stir for 1 minute.  Add the rest of filling ingredients and stir it for about 10 minutes or  until cooked through. 
1 box of Kingsford Cornstarch (16 oz)
12 cups of water or use half of water and half of chicken broth
1-2 tablespoons of oil
4 tablespoons of fish sauce if you use only  water
2 tablespoons of fish sauce if you use half water and half chicken broth

In a 5 quarts pot, add all the dough ingredients and stir it until cornstarch dissolved.  Turn the heat on to medium high.  Make sure to stir it constantly for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens.  Remove from heat.

1 bag of frozen banana leaf, trimmed of any brown edges, washed, and wiped. 
Cut into 30 pieces of 4" x 10" or
30 squares of  aluminum foil  9" x 9".
You can also use rice bowls instead wrapping it.

Place a square of aluminum foil in a diamond shape on your work surface. Add a scoopful of the dough in the center and flatten to a circle. Add a spoonful of the meat mixture. Fold the aluminum foil in half to make a triangle with pointed side on top.  Fold in both sides about 3 folds per side, then fold down the top slightly, then fold the bottom ends underneath.
If you use banana leaf, fold a piece of banana left into a cone shape. Add a scoop of dough.  Use a small spoon to make a hole in the center.  Add a spoonful of meat, then cover meat with another scoop of dough.  Fold in four sides.  Do the same if you use rice bowls. 

Steam banh gio over boiling water for 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before eating.  Open up the banana leaf  and dig in.  If you love spicy food, eat it with a few slices of fresh chili peppers. 
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Ăn Ngon...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bún Măng Gà (Vietnamese Bamboo Shoot and Chicken Noodle Soup)

I woke up this morning, fed my kids oatmeal, then pulled out a can of paint and started to touch up all the cracks and doodlings on the walls left behind by my two darlings.  Next I vacuumed the entire house then climbed a ladder to wipe off the cake  of dust  that had collected our ceiling fans.    Suddently I realized that Vietnamese New Year was lurking around the corner.  

Tết in Viet Nam

This year, Vietnamese New Year falls on February 14, 2010. It will soon be the Year of the Tiger. A few weeks before the New Year, every family in Viet Nam would spend countless hours in prepration to welcome the new year.  As the saying goes, "cleanliness is next to godliness" so every one cleans to prepare for the arrival of Spring. It's superstitious and customary that cleaning your house will get rid the bad fortune and  usher in the good.  In addition, everyone tries to get as many new things from clothes to furnitures to pots and pans for their homes.  I remembered that my mom would take me to the tailor and had  at least 4 new outfits made for me to wear  for the week of New Year; the Tet celeberation lasts for 7 days.  Some traditional food served during Tet are:  banh trung, banh tet, dua mon  va cu kieu, thit kho trung, bun mang vit, etc. Food is prepared ahead so that the kitchen God (Ong Tao) can rest on New Year. 

One of my fondest memories during these festivities is the anticipation of finding out how red the watermelon would be. Red as you may know is considered to very lucky. So opening the brightest, reddest watermelon is a great sign of luck and fortune to come in the new year.    This event takes place at midnight on the eve of the New Year.  The joy of this occasion fills the air with excitement and evokes enthusiasm, laughter, and warm wishes as it is the most popular and anticipated event of the year.

Flower Market, Việt  Nam

As soon as I finished cleaning the house, it was time to cook.  Bun Mang Vit sounded appetizing. So I scoured the fridge and found a whole chicken.  I found a bag of dried bamboo in the pantry.  Now, I had all the main ingredients to make a pot of Bun Mang Ga in this case instead of  Bun Mang Vit. The recipe is as below. The bowl of delicious, comforting, steamy noodle soup filling the kitchen air with its scent of chicken, dried bamboo shoot, pan-fried shallots, green scallion, and pepper vaporized my long and exhausting day. It satisfied our bellies and reminded me of how fortunate I am. Enjoy and have a posperous, happy, and healthy new year!!!
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RECIPE: Bún Măng Gà
1 whole chicken
1/2 bag of dried bamboo shoot
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
16 cups of  water
6-8 cloves of garlic (tép tỏi), peeled
2 inches chunk yellow rock sugar a.k.a lump sugar (đường phèn)
3-4 slices ginger
12 green onion, cut the upper white and some of green part to yield 4 inch lengths. Thinly sliced the rest of the green part
1 bag of fine dried rice noodles, boiled about 10 minutes until tender, drained, rinsed with cold water, and well drained
2 or 3 red chili peppers, for garnish noodle and soup 1 small bunch of rau răm (Vietnamese coriander), for garnish noodle and soup
1 small bunch of ngò gai (culantro), for garnish noodle and soup
1 small bunch of cilantro, finely chopped, for garnish noodle and soup
Fried shallots, for garnish noodle and soup
Limes, cut into wedges, for garnish noodle and soup
Bean Sprout, rinsed and drained, optional
Ginger, finely chopped (for dipping sauce)
Prepare Dried Bamboo Shoot - Rinse the bamboo shoot well under water. Soak it in water overnight.  Rinse it again. Cut the bamboo and or hand shred it long narrow pieces, about 11/2 inches long.  Put it in a pot of water and boil it for about 45 minutes or until it's chewy tender.  It's okay if it's not tender because you will cook it further with the chiken.  Drain, rinse, and set aside to cool.

Prepare Chicken and Broth -  Add water, chicken, slices of ginger and garlic in a large pot.   Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until chicken is tender.  Remove chicken and let it  cool a bit.  Remove chicken meat from the chicken bone and slice into thin slices. Set the chicken aside.   
Bring the broth back to boil.  Add salt, fish sauce, rock sugar, bamboo shoot and chicken bone back in the broth and continue cooking.  Bring the broth back to boil and then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. Cook for another 30 minutes. Skim and discard the scum and garlic.  Taste and if necessary, adjust salt or fish sauce for savory depth. 

When you're ready to eat, add the white part of green onion in the broth and cook for about 30 seconds to just soften but retain its bright color.

Prepare Ginger Fish Sauce Dip - Add chopped ginger to fish sauce dip
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Presentation of Bún Măng Gà
Place some vermicelli noodles in a soup bowl.
Arrange slices of chicken on top of noodle, following boiling broth with bamboo shoot (arrange bamboo shoot around the slices of chicken).
Top with fried shallots,culantro (ngò gai ), cirlantro, Vietnaemse coriander (rau răm), scallion and sprinkle some black pepper. 
Serve with lime wedges, red chili peppers and ginger fish sauce dip.

***If you use duck, trim off excess fat and skin from the duck.  Put some oil in a frying pan and fry it at medium high heat until evenly browned all over.  Remove the duck.   Add duck to the water pot.  Continue step: Prepare Chicken and Broth.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mắm Cá Lóc Chưng (Steamed Pickled Mud Fish)

After having lunch with the spicy savory mắm cá chưng that one of friends gave, I had the urge to produce a lot to last through these cold, raining days. I used to make this dish without carrots and yam but my friend's mắm cá chưng looked so good with those ingredients; so I tried to replicate . . . with a slight embellishment.

I went hunting for ingredients in my pantry. I had 1/2 cup of Pickled Mud Fish left in the jar.  I decided to use all of it with the rest of other ingredients in my recipe below.  First, it turned out a bit salty.  I had to add just a little more of sugar, carrots and yam. I didn't want to cover up its saltiness as this is the essence of any mắm dish. To change it up a bit, I also added some vermicelli bean threads, eggs, and fried shallots. The result was a thumb's up from my mother-in-law.

In the summer time, I like to eat mắm cá chưng with room-temperature rice and fresh slices of cucumber.  In the winter, I like to enjoy it with  hot rice and my homegrown steamed mustard greens (cải luộc). It's a versatile dish that can be enjoyed with a combination of rice and veggies, but it's a dish that will satisfy the pallets of those of you who crave the spice of salt . . . and water to quench your thirst afterward.
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RECIPE: Mắm Cá Lóc Chưng
1/4 - 1/3 cup of Pickled Mud Fish (mắm cá lóc xay)
1 cup of ground pork
1/2 cup of vermicelli bean threads, chopped
1/2 cup of onion, chopped
1/2 cup of shredded black fungus, chopped
1/2 cup of Japanese yam, chopped
1/2 cup of carrot, chopped
2 eggs
4 tablespoons of fried shallots
1/2 tablespoon of garlic, chopped
1-2 teaspoons of black pepper
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 chili pepper, sliced
 * * *
Mix all the ingriedients in a large bowl.  Do a taste test by microwaving a teaspoon of mixture.  Adjust sugar or pickled mud fish if needed. Divide the
mixture into small bowls. Add a few slices of fresh chilli pepper on top of each bowl. Place these bowls inside the steamer.
Steam it when water starts boiling for about 30 minutes.  Use a small spoon to scoop out a spoon of mam from the bottom of the bowl just to see if it's cooked. 

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Vietnamese Pork & Shrimp Dumplings Demonstration (Bánh Quai Vạc Trần)

We did it! Our steamed pork buns and banana ice cream bars were a savory success. We labored for 4 hours in my cozy kitchen, hiddened from the pouring rain outside . . . an ideal setting to experience culinary delight.

There were 5 of us, eager and hungry to create something. Each of us made a batch. We made a total of 75 buns. Now that's a lot of kneeding, rolling, and twisting. When the steaming buns were done, they were soft, sweet, salty . . . just simply  delicious.  I guessed crossing my fingers helped.     The process of kneeding the dough and assembling the buns didn't take long but steaming took a while since we had only 2 steamers and each one could only hold about 8 buns.  Each batch took about half an hour to cook.  

One of my friends had an ice cream bar when she was at my house the last time, but there weren't enough for her to have seconds so she requested that I include this as part of the demonstration along with the steamed pork buns.  While the buns were steaming, we started on Banana Ice Cream Bars.   Some of us couldn't handle the wonderful and strong aroma of durian, so we had to make two different dips: Coconut and Durian Coconut. This serves as a great dessert to go with the pork buns.

uncooked buns

Our first batch of Steamed Pork Buns.

Next on the menu . . . a request for   Pork and Shrimp Dumlings  (Bánh Quai Vạc Trần).  That sounds great.  And for dessert,  I am thinking of Chè Trôi Nước (Floating Sticky Rice Ball with Mung Bean filling); this is my mom's best kept family recipe.  Are you up for it? 
Pork and Shrimp Dumplings (Bánh Quai Vạc Trần)

Until next time, feast upon these delicious imagery.

Chè Trôi Nước (Floating Sticky
Rice Ball with Mung Bean filling)