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Monday, October 24, 2011

Bánh Bèo (Steamed Rice Cake)

These delicious Bánh Bèo is the Vietnamese version of tapas. They are made and served in these tiny ceramic plates, packed with enormous flavors. They are irresistible when you are sitting and waiting for them to come out of the steamer. The wonderful aroma brought on by the scallion oil, fried shallot, the gorgeous orange-colored shrimp paste, tiny cubes of crunchy fried pork fat (tép mỡ) or crispy croutons and savory fish sauce are to die for. 

You can divide these and politely eat them in halves or slurp the entire Bánh Bèo which is how I would prefer to eat them. Warning: You'll need a whole tray of these to curb your hunger. 

The Hue style of making and eating Bánh Bèo is steaming it in those cute little round ceramic plates then eating straight from them.  Some of the most important steps in making good Bánh Bèo includes creating a dimple in the center, which is perfect for holding bits of flavorful and savory ingredients; the dimpling is achieved by assuring that there is plenty of water in the steamer and maintaining adequately high heat. Secondly, pour just a thin layer of flour into each plate in order to get the right amount of softness and texture.  
Here my two models demonstrate how to enjoy a wonderful meal in ambience of the garden. They love these simple, delicate Bánh Bèo. After they finished, they would stack the empty plates high up.  Most of the time, they would compete with each other, counting the number of plates to see who can eat the most.
RECIPE: Bánh Bèo


For Bánh Bèo Batter
1 cup Rice Flour
1 tablespoons Tapioca Flour
2 cups Lukewarm Water
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Olive Oil or Oil
For Bánh Bèo Toppings
1 pound Shrimp, Shell on
3 Slices Sandwiches or Bread cut into small squares, for croutons or
Fried Fat Pork
1 bunch of scallions,  finely chopped
Fried Shallot, optional
1/2-1 tablespoon Annatto Oil (dầu hạt điều), optional
For Fish Sauce Dip
1 cup Shrimp Broth
1 1/2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
11/2 tablespoons Sugar
1-2 fresh red chilies, thinly sliced
Preparing Bánh Bèo Batter
Rice Flour, Tapioca Starch, Salt and Oil
In a large mixing bowl, combine Bánh Bèo batter except oil and stir well until you achieve a fine liquid batter. 
Let it settle for a while until the water becomes clear. 
Pour the clear water to another bowl or a measurement cup. Make sure to measure the amount of water you poured out. Discard the water. Place back the same amount of clean water to the batter bowl. This process is to eliminate the smell of old flour.  
Add oil and allow the batter to sit for at least half an hour.  
Preparing Shrimp Paste Topping

Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to boil.  Add shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes.  Remove shrimps then peel and reserve the shrimps broth.
Smash each shrimp with a meat tenderizer or the back of the knife. You can also pound shrimps in a mortar and pestle until crushed.

Place a frying pan on low heat, add the crushed shrimp. Season lightly with about 1/2-1 teaspoon fish sauce or a dash of salt and pepper. Use a spatula to stir and press the shrimp down for 5 minutes or until shrimps are completely dry and bluff.
Add annatto oil to enhance the beautiful orange color of cotton shrimp. Stir it well for another couple of minutes. Turn off heat and continue to stir fry for a further a minute.

Preparing Croutons

Cut bread or sandwich into small squares.
Bring a frying pan with 1-2 tabespoons of  oil to medium heat.  Add pieces of sandwich to the hot oil.  Remove the croutons with a strainer when they are turning golden.  Place croutons on a paper towel to absorb the excess of oil.  

If prefer Fried Fat Pork (Tép Mỡ), click here for recipe.
Preparing Scallion Oil
Our homegrown beautiful, lush green onions (scallions)

Place scallions and a dash of salt  in a bowl.  Heat a small sauce pan with 1 tablespoon of oil.  When hot, pour the hot oil into the scallions bowl.  Mix it well.  Set aside.

Preparing Fish Sauce

Fish Sauce, Shrimp Broth and Sugar
Mix all the fish sauce ingredients.  Set aside.
Steaming Bánh Bèo

Fill a steamer with 2/3 water and bring to rapid boil.  Place a full tray of plates to the steamer.  Stir the mix before each use.  Fill each plate just half way.  Cover and steam for about 3 minutes. 
Remove and allow to cool for a minute or two.  Repeat this process until batter is finished.
Top Bánh Bèo with scallion oil, shrimp paste, croutons or fried fat pork. 
Drizzle or flood with fish sauce. Scoop it out with a teaspoon and Enjoy!
Now let's see how many of these would fill you up!