Tag Archives: Cookery

Bánh Cuốn – Vietnamese Rice Flour Pancakes With Mushroom And Tofu Filling

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This pile of about 25 pancakes lasted only about 5 minutes between 3 people, even with two other dishes on the side. The 3 mushroom filling was so light and savoury, especially when combined with the slightly salty rice pancake, it felt almost as if we hadn’t eaten them.

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to be invited round to my new friend Lily’s – Vietnamese cook and food marketer extraordinaire – where together we made a veritable feast of Vietnamese food. Using Lily’s own meat recipes as a starting point, we made Bánh Cuốn – translucent rice flour stuffed pancakes – using a non stick frying pan. Instead of shrimp or pork, however, we made a frankly delicious filling made from mushrooms, with 1 egg, a little tofu and a little bit of carrot and kohlrabi. Lily also made a separate dish tofu with fresh tomatoes (see next post) and an excellent Mango salad, which you might recall is a recipe I got from Lily in the first place. This was supplemented by copious fresh fruit like Chinese grapefruit (pomelo), custard apples, mandarins and extra mangoes. And considering it was still January and therefore epiphany in the French calendar, I brought over a homemade Galette de Rois made with puff pastry and almond frangipan, to finish our meal off! Lily is an excellent cook and an excellent person, and we plan to do a weekly Sunday Vietnamese cooking session at hers, so in effect I can tick off one of my life dreams as achieved. Expect Banh Xeo next week, and Banh Chung for Tet the week after!

Lily The Mango Fiend

Lily The Mango Fiend

Recipe (Serves 3-4 with other dishes).

200g steamed pancake flour – comes in packs of 400g at Vietnamese supermarkets, mainly consisting of rice flour and salt.
250 ml water – we found we needed more than the packet instructions detailed
2 black fungus mushrooms, soaked and then chopped into very small cubes about 2mm in diameter
2-3 small dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked and chopped into 2mm cubes
2 fresh shitake mushrooms, soaked and chopped into 2mm cubes
50g tofu, chopped into small cubes or crushed.
1 egg
1/4 carrot, chopped into 2mm cubes
1/2 kohlrabi, chopped into 2mm cubes
1/2 yellow onion, chopped into 2 mm cubes
1 clove garlic, chopped into 2 mm cubes
1 egg
3 tbps medium soy sauce
1 tbsp oil
half a tsp of sugar
half a tsp salt.

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Fry all the chopped ingredients together in the oil on a low-medium heat in a saucepan for 8-10 minutes, adding the egg to the mix about half way in. Once the vegetables are tender, the onions sweet and translucent, season the mixture to taste and set aside.

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Mix the Banh Cuon flour with the water until there are no lumps left in the batter. Brush oil in a non-stick frying pan and heat it on a low heat. Add about half a ladle of the batter to the pan, turning quickly to ensure the bottom is evenly coated. Put the lid of a saucepan over the frying pan in order to steam the top half of the pancake. Once the pancake is translucent and you can see quite clearly through it, carefully transfer it onto a plate to be rolled.

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Split the pancake in half to form two pancakes. Along each edge spread half a tablespoon of the mixture thinly. Roll the straight edge of each half over towards the curved edge once, rolling up the mixture in the process. Transfer to a serving plate and repeat with the other pancakes until all the pancake batter has been used.

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Banh Chung

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The unwrapping of the cooked, mung bean Banh Chung from its Banana Leaf raiments. The banana leaves dye the glutinous rice green and give it a faint smell of green tea.

Banh Chung is a steamed glutinous rice cake with a bean and sometimes pork filling that the Vietnamese traditionally make for Tet – the lunar new year. The cakes are boiled for about 6 hours in big stockpot and the whole process reminded me of making Christmas Pudding. Interesting that when making food for special occasions, totally different cultures have gone traditionally for that same soft, dense pudding texture.

There are many ways you can enjoy a slice of Banh Chung in the weeks following Tet – fry a piece in a little oil; microwave it; steam it. I made 6 and ended up having a microwaved piece for breakfast with a little sugar on top every morning for about a month until we’d eaten up all the cakes up. I sometimes ate it with a bit of pickled mouli as well, although be careful to use rice vinegar or you might end up with a kind of pungent, fish and chips style smell pervading your breakfast (my dad’s recipe). I was fine with that but it’s not exactly a delicate flavour.

 

I used this vegetarian starter recipe to make the Banh Chung – http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-banh-chung-vietnamese-rice-cakes-164610. However, I increased the quantity of mung beans to 2 cups to give a more generous filling, and used a red onion. For next year’s Tet I plan to add a couple of Shitake mushrooms to the mung bean filling, to give it a more juicy texture and richer flavour that seeps into the rice, which is what pork fat does in the non-vegetarian version. If you wanted to make a sweet cake, you could also add some slices of banana to the mung bean paste, which I’m sure would be really soft and delicious. The cakes last in the fridge for a week but you can also freeze them for up to about a month, just make sure you freeze them soon after they’ve finished cooking.