Bánh bèo is a variety of steamed rice cakes or mini pancakes that originated from Hue, Vietnam. Tiny ceramic plates containing a small amount of a simple rice flour batter are steamed and topped with various savory ingredients such as dried shrimp, mung bean, fried pork, croutons, and scallion oil and then drenched in a salty sweet fish sauce. It is the quintessential group meal as everyone gets a chance to customize their rice cakes with various toppings. It’s not uncommon to see stacks of empty plates piled high on the table. This meal can feed a large crowd with few inexpensive ingredients. The best part is the conversations with friends and family while waiting for the rice cakes to steam.
Difficulty: Easy / Servings: 6 / Time: 30 minutes to prepare, 8 minutes to steam each batch of rice cakes
20 jumbo shrimps
4 cups of water
2 and 1/2 cup of Bánh Bèo flour mix (approximately 1 package available online or at any Asian supermarket)
3 tablespoons of tapioca starch
3 cloves of minced garlic
1/2 cups of diced scallions
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of pre-made fried red onions or you can fry some yellow onion slices until they turn golden brown
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of fish sauce
2 cups of coconut soda
1/2 of a Thai red chili diced
1 package of Chicarone
Optional: 1/2 cup of Vietnamese pickled carrots and daikon (This is typically seen in south of Vietnam as a topping.) Recipe link here.
A flat bottom steamer
At least 20 small plates approximately 4 inches in diameter or you can use muffing tins or mini tart molds.
In a large bowl, mix 4 cups of water, 2 and 1/2 cup of bánh bèo flour mix, 3 tablespoons of tapioca starch and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. You will only need enough water to submerge the shrimp. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, add the shrimp and let them cook for approximately 2-3 minutes until they turn light pink.
Drain, peel and devien the shrimp and minced them in a food processor. This should yield approximately 2 cups of minced shrimp. Optional: To make the shrimp look more vibrant, add 2 drops of yellow food color and 1 drop of red food color and mix well.
Heat a pan on medium heat. Add minced shrimp and continue to stir so it does not burn. The shrimp will dry out and becomes fluffy after 3 to 5 minutes.
Make scallion oil by microwaving 1/2 cups of diced scallion and 1/2 cup of vegetable oil for 40 seconds.
Make the sauce by combining 2 cups of coconut soda with 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 of a red Thai chili diced, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of fish sauce.
Steam the rice cakes:
Prepare a large flat bottom steamer. Once the steam starts coming through the bottom layer, add the mini dishes. Brush the dish with some vegetable oil. Pour the batter so that it hits 3/4 up the side of the dish and close the lid. Steam for 4 minutes and open the lid to release the steam. Close the lid and steam for another 4 minutes. This will give the pancakes their trademark dimples. Remove from the steamer and allow to cool for a minute before handling the dish.
Top each dish with a spoonful of dry shrimp, scallion oil, fried onions, chicarone, pickled daikon and carrots and fish sauce. Eat it right off the plate. Bánh bèo is best eaten right out of the steamer as the rice cake hardens the longer it is left on the table.