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Bánh Chưng (Square Rice Cake with Mung Bean and Pork Belly)

This past Christmas my grandmother (bà ngoại) taught me how to make bánh chưng. The last time we made bánh chưng together, I was 5. I ran amuck and made a big mess of everything – my grandmother still complains about all the tactics she needed to chase me away or keep me distracted. Nevertheless, “helping” bà ngoại make bánh chưng and staying up watching the adults tend to the fire and the bubbling pot of bánh chưng remain one of my fondest memories. Despite not running amuck and not making as big a mess this time around, learning to make bánh chưng with bà ngoại is another cherished event. It made my grandmother happy, too, finally to have someone help her make bánh chưng again. Maybe making bánh chưng will even become a regular holiday event once more!

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Memorial weekend BBQ

Select photos from the dishes we brought to a BBQ this weekend. Vegan dishes were first to go on the grill:

  • Squash blossoms stuffed with coconut flesh smeared with miso-sake-mirin sauce
  • Miso-glazed tofu
  • Vegan burgers: edamame, chickpeas, olive oil, shiitake and tree oyster mushrooms

Squash blossoms, coconut misozuke

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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 😀


Bánh tét, pt. 3

Our bánh tét series continue… The entire process is quite a production, so we definitely have a lot to write about.

Don’t know if you notice something strange about the ingredients for bánh tét in this photo

bánh tét ingredients

Bedsides sticky rice, there are 2 types of meat and 2 pastes. Counter-clockwise, from the bottom right: pork marinaded with fish sauce and pepper, mung bean paste, lamb marinaded with tamarind and fish sauce, and chickpea paste.

Staying true to our motto of making Vietnamese food that you have always/never had, we experimented with new bánh tét fillings along with traditional ones. The pork in fish sauce and mung bean paste combination is traditional and familiar. For the new combination, we wanted to experiment with meat that has a more assertive flavor than pork, so we settled on lamb. Tamarind followed naturally, because I had always been thinking and wondering about that flavor combination for a while. The decision on chickpea was a little bit more random. We just wanted something other than mung beans and we’ve had and liked chickpeas in Spanish and Middle Eastern cuisine.

We ended up making 3 bánh tét with the experimental fillings (there were also some hybrid bánh tét where pork was paired with chickpeas). After trying the new bánh tét, we wished we had made more! :) Chickpea paste is definitely more savory than mung bean paste. On the other hand, it is similar enough to mung bean paste that most people who had the pork/chickpeas combination did not notice anything amiss, only that bánh tét was very tasty. We are glad this choice worked out wonderfully. We also loved tamarind lamb! Lamb added a very nice fragrance that permeated bánh tét. Of course, if you can’t stand lamb, you probably can’t stand this bánh tét.

Happy with our experiment and because Lamp just loves bánh tét, we are actually making another batch of bánh tét this weekend! We need to work out our new ideas for bánh tét, after all.

Stay tuned! :)