Sunday, December 20, 2009

Banh Tet Chuoi: Vietnamese Sticky Rice with Banana


Out of all the different iterations of sticky rice wrapped in some type of leaf, whether it’s lotus leaf or banana leaf, perhaps my favorite sweet version is Vietnamese sticky rice with banana wrapped in banana leaf.  The sweetness of the sticky rice plays well with the coconut milk that it is cooked in.  This infusion of coconut flavor into the rice combined with banana creates a great flavor profile that can be found in a few other types of banh and che: most notably for me is banh chuoi nuong (Vietnamese banana bread).


Another thing that I love about banana sticky rice is the fragrance.  The banana leaves give off a great leafy aroma and the sticky rice is fairly fragrant, almost akin to basmati rice.  Not only do the leaves give off a grant fragrance, but their leafiness is also imbued into the rice itself. 

To prepare the banana sticky rice, the rice must be soaked for at least a couple hours (overnight even) before cooking.  I’m not really sure why it needs to be soaked, but if I had to take a guess it’s probably because the rice is steamed rather than boiled.  Soaking the rice before steaming may give the rice the proper moisture it needs to soften when cooked. 

Friday, December 11, 2009



Sorry about the brief hiatus.  No excuses.  I’ve just been a little lazy recently.  I thought it’d be a good time to talk about my knives now since I put them to really good use this past weekend. On Monday, I helped cook dinner at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter. We made chicken pot pie, green beans, salad, and caramelized apples with cranberries. I was responsible for sourcing everything and preparing enough chicken pot pie filling for 50 people ahead of time.

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Determined from the get go to make the filling from scratch (even down to the stock, which added a robust chickeniness you can’t find in a can), I had to do a fair amount of mise en place: cutting up 5 pounds of carrots, 3 pounds of celery, 6 pounds of onions, and breaking down 40 pounds of chicken. I was also planning on stemming, blanching, and shocking 12 pounds of green beans, but I simply ran out of time.  With that much mise en place to do, it turned out to be a great opportunity to practice my basic knife skills.

You’ll notice, from left to right in the top picture, that I have an 8” chef’s, 7” santoku, 10” serrated bread knife, 2 paring knives, and a 7” nakiri.  My first three knife purchases were the 8” chef’s, the Victorinox paring knife, and the Victorinox serrated bread knife.  Many people consider these three types of knives to be the three knives you really need if you were to only own the essentials.


The 8” Shun Classic chef’s knife pictured above was my first “real” knife.  I first heard of Shun knives reading through Alton Brown’s book on kitchen gear.  The combination of a Western style blade, Japanese edge/steel/handle intrigued me.  Before I learned of Shun knives, I was already a fan of the Japanese-style D-shaped handles.  My grandma’s Chinese clever had a similar handle that I really enjoyed.  I’ve had this knife for about a year now, and it’s served me well.