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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bánh Bí Đỏ (Pumpkin Cake Wrapped in Banana Leaf)

A friend of mine came over on the day while I was making bánh nậm (steamed flat rice dumpling).  She was so excited to see the cakes wrapped in banana leaf; she was hoping I had made her favorite cake that she always wanted to bring to the US every time she visited her family in Cambodia.  So I offered to make it for her if she can tell me all the secret ingredients.

My first attempt apparently didn't turn out too shabby as she gave me two thumbs up. She says now she knows who to go to when she craves for these noum lepoev. I think I've been setup - but love the challenge!

As you noticed, most of the Asian desserts utilize pandan leave, coconut, tapioca flour or rice flour.  This pumpkin cake wrapped in banana leaf is simple and it's fragrance is enhanced by the coconut milk and shredded coconut.  It's well balanced and has an earthy, creamy, mildly sweet, and buttery flavor derived from the pure pumpkin.

Spring is almost here but the idea of pumpkin certainly evokes the beauty of the fall while I'm making these yummy pumpkin cakes.  I can see myself sitting on the deck, nibbling on the pumpkin cake, sipping on a cup of hot coffee, and watching the leaves sailing down from the trees. Well, there's something to look forward to now.
RECIPE: Bánh Bí  Đỏ
make about 26-30 cakes

1 (about 2.5 lbs) small Pumpkin, make 3 cups packed shredded pumpkin
1 1/2 cups Rice Flour
2 cups fine Shredded Coconut
1 can 13.5 oz Coconut Milk
2/3 cup Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Powder, optional
1 bag Frozen Banana Leave

Prepare Banana Leaves

Thaw banana leaves under sink water.  Cut the leaf into about 5 in x 9in pieces.  Use a kitchen towel to pat dry the leaves.  You can prepare the leaves a head of time then keep them in a bag and store in the fridge until ready to use.
Preparing Pumpkin 

Cut and peel pumpkin.  Wash and rinse.  Place a  fine shredding disc  into the cuisinart  food processor.  Add one piece of pumpkin at a time into the food processor and shred it.

If you don't have the shredding disc for your food processor, another way to shred it is by using the shredder.  Measure 3 cups packed pumpkin.  Set aside.

Mixing Pumpkin 

In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.  Mix well.

Add coconut milk then mix well. 
Wrapping Pumpkin Mixture

Place 1/3 cup of  pumpkin mixture onto the banana leaf.

Use a spatula to spread it out.

Fold both sides and ends up.

I find it easier to fold both ends using a chopstick to guide it.

Use the chopstick to flatten the filling out by going cross from left to right.

Steaming Pumpkin Cake

Bring a pot of water in a steamer to a boil.  Place pumpkin cakes that you have already arranged on a steamer tray onto the steamer and steam for about 30 minutes.  When the banana leaves change color to a pale yellow evenly, the cakes are done.


Unwrap the banana leaf, enjoy it with a cup of hot jasmine tea.  I personally like mine with nutty toasted sesame seeds sprinkle over the cake.  Yum!

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