Follow Us on Twitter
Rau Om

Promote Your Page Too
Feb02

Rau Om learns to wrap bánh tét : A video

That’s right, folks, Rau Om enters the cutting edge world of moving pictures with a short kinematographic post to Youtube.

The days before Tết are a frenzy of food preparations, including wrapping and cooking bánh tét if one’s from Southern Vietnam. This past Tết season, we went home and learned from Mom a more efficient way to wrap than what was previously described in our previous bánh tét post.

The music included in the video is “Improvisations in the Spring Mode” by our music teacher, the amazing master musician Nguyễn Vĩnh Bảo.

Apr03

Bánh tét chiên (pan-fried bánh tét), Jackson Pollock style

 

Bánh tét sâu bướm / caterpillar bánh tét

We sent slices of our bánh tét sâu bướm /caterpillar bánh tét to feed the patrons of the AHA Shop Art Show. We had some leftover so we did what we always do with leftover bánh tét: make bánh tét chiên (pan-fried bánh tét).

Bánh tét in the pan

Bánh tét chiên is very popular in my family – each generation from my grandmother on down has at least one guest who’s addicted to the dish and will happily gorge on it whenever they visit. It’s easy to make, too: slices of bánh tét were mushed up on a hot, lightly oiled frying pan until the underside was browned and crunchy. The only hard part was flipping the thing – I had to slide the pancake onto a ceramic plate then flip it back. Once both sides were done, we had a crunchy, chewy, savoury pancake to savor with dưa món (pickled vegetables.)  Because we started with our colorful bánh tét sâu bướm, our bánh tét chiên came out looking like Jackson Pollock made it:

 

Bánh tét chiên, Jackson Pollock style

 

 

Mar24

Bánh Tét Sâu Bướm (Caterpillar Bánh Tét) at the All Hands Active Art Show March 26th

We’ll be offering up slices of our Bánh Tét Sâu Bướm (Caterpillar Bánh Tét) as donations fodder for the All Hands Active Art Show and Auction fundraiser. Pictures when we unwrap the banh.

All Hands Active is a makerspace/hackerspace in Ann Arbor that provides workshop space, tools, and classes for interested makers and tinkerers. The happening will uh happen at The Vault of Midnight comic shop on Saturday March 26th from 3pm to 7pm or so.

All Hands Active Art Show

 


Mar01

Sticky rice balls (with chickpea paste filling)

Playing with bánh tét leftovers :)

What to do with leftovers from our bánh tét experiment? Make colorful sticky rice balls with chickpea paste filling, of course 😀

Feb28

A colorful new batch of bánh tét

We can’t seem to stop making bánh tét. Lamp likes bánh tét a lot and he came up with the idea of making bánh tét with stripes (like a caterpillar). I am not a big fan of bánh tét, but the idea sounded so cool and challenging that I was persuaded. Plus, there are enough friends who like our bánh tét that we weren’t afraid of having to eat bánh tét for the rest of the year. 😀

Working from a caterpillar photo, we knew we needed 3 colors: green, orange and black. Green and orange colors were easy: pandan leaf extract and gấc (spiny bitter gourd) are 2 common Vietnamese natural coloring ingredients. Black was a bit more challenging. We gravitated toward squid ink to color the sticky rice black, but we were worried about introducing a seafood taste to our bánh tét. Our other option we decided on was nếp than (black glutinous rice).

Ingredients for caterpillar bánh tét

The ingredients were laid out in the above photo (from top left, clockwise): sticky rice with pandan leave extract, black glutinous rice, chickpea paste, sticky rice mixed with squid ink and sticky rice mixed with gấc.

Sticky rice was soaked overnight and then divided into different portions to be mixed with various natural coloring agents. Black glutinous rice already had the desired color, so we only soaked it overnight. All the sticky rice portions were then stir fried for ~20-30 minutes to partially cook them. We wanted the rice to become sticky and stay in place while being rolled into a bánh tét. Black glutinous rice was harder, so I cooked it longer and with added water until it achieved a softness similar to the rest of the sticky rice. Black glutinous rice didn’t turn sticky, though.

Since the rice was partially cooked, we only needed to cook bánh tét for 3-3.5 hours instead of the full 6 hours. However, that short cooking time meant we also had to pre-cook the meat before rolling bánh tét to make sure that meat will achieve the same level of tenderness as when it’s cooked for 6 hours in a regular bánh tét. Of course, there wasn’t 1 type of meat in this batch (how could we let such a big experiment go to waste?) Here are the different combinations for these bánh tét:

  1. pork belly with fish sauce & pepper (traditional)
  2. pork belly with kecap manis & pepper
  3. beef shank with fish sauce, curry & pepper
  4. beef shank with kecap manis & pepper
  5. lamb shoulder chop with kecap manis & pepper

With all the ingredients prepared, it’s time to roll our bánh tét. Lamp laid down a piece of foil between the banana leaves and the sticky rice to prevent the green color from the leaves to bleed into the colored sticky rice.

rolling caterpillar bánh tét

Another technique we tried was a different method for tying up the bundles. Lamp read about the lost art of cable lacing from Boing Boing and Make Blog and filed it away for future use in electronics projects. Who knew it’d make itself useful instead in streamlining our bánh tét rolling. Specifically we used a 12 foot long length of twine to secure the bánh tét via a telephone hitch and four lock stitches.

Bánh tét secured as if it were a bundle of electrical wires.

And here’s what that bánh tét sâu bướm (caterpillar bánh tét) looks like after cooking:

Cooked colorful bánh tét

We were reasonably pleased with the result. Our biggest worry had been that the colors would bleed into other layers and we’d get a confused mess for a bánh tét. We were happy to see that the colors stayed where they were supposed to. However, the sticky rice grains moved a bit during rolling so the stripes weren’t as well defined as we’d like them to. Next time, we should definitely work on making the borders sharper when we laid down the grains before rolling.

Another concern was that if one sliced bánh tét before unwrapping the leaves, our hard work making caterpillar stripes would be unnoticed. But the bánh tét slices by themselves were still quite fun and colorful. And Lamp for one has no problem making jokes no one else gets.

Whoa... I can taste the colors

Of the two methods to make black rice, we found the squid ink to work better. Nếp than was very fragrant but unfortunately its colorful husk prevented it from forming a solid shell like milled sticky rice. The squid ink rice on the other hand behaved glutinously, held its vivid color without bleeding (unlike nếp than) and also did not contribute a noticeable seafood flavor to the bánh tét. (Then again, why not a seafood bánh tét? …)

More colorful caterpillar bánh tet slices - note bleeding of nếp than on the top slices

Finally, next time we roll bánh tét, we’ll have a mechanism to make sure the paste surrounds the meat – we’ll pre make bundles of chickpeas and meat rolled tight in saran wrap. It’ll probably have the effect of streamlining the rolling process too.

Previous posts : How to make bánh tét (method), cooked bánh tét (results), discussion & future directions.

This is our contribution to March Delicious Vietnam food posts round-up started by A food lover’s journey and Ravenous Couple.