Recently, I learned eating banh chung is a traditionally eaten during the Lunar New Year. Previously, banh chung was simply something my Vietnamese grandma would always make around the holiday season and sometimes during other parts of the year. No matter the occasion or time of year, though, I could never get enough of her banh chung.
Her version is a vegetarian one: glutinous rice and mung bean wrapped in banana leaves. Personally I don’t mind the lack of meat because for me it’s all about the rice. When you boil glutinous rice for several hours as you do for banh chung, it takes on a unique texture when you eat it at room temperature and the aroma of the leaves comes through. The texture is almost between that of onigiri and mochi. Slightly chewy but yielding.
The texture can take on a drastically different profile when the banh chung is flattened and fried in a pan until golden brown. In this form, the texture is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. After going back and forth between which preparation I prefer most year after year, I recently came to the conclusion that I prefer the non-fried version. I find that frying the banh chung kills the subtle flavors of the rice and leaves.
So for my banh chung, I eat it at room temperature. This time around, I filled mine with leftover pork rillettes from CharcutePalooza that I had in the freezer, and instead of wrapping the banh chung in banana leaves I used lotus leaves simply because that’s what I had in my pantry.
Banh Chung (makes about 3 individual servings)
Mise En Place
- 200 g glutinous rice, soaked overnight in water and a few drops of pandan extract
- 200 g mung beans, soaked overnight in water
- 200 g pork rillettes or some other protein
- 3 lotus leaves or banana leaves, soaked in warm water
- Fish sauce
Method (for 1 individual serving)
- Drain mung beans and place in a pot with enough water to cover. Simmer until tender and mash, about 25 minutes. Season with fish sauce and pepper.
- Drain rice and season with fish sauce.
- Fold the leaf in half so it is doubled.
- Place 1/6th of the rice in the middle of a leaf in the shape of a rectangle.
- Place 1/3rd of the protein on top of the rice.
- Place 1/3rd of the mung beans on top of the rice.
- Place 1/6th of the rice on top of the mung beans.
- Shape into a rectangle by hand and wrap tightly with twine.
- Wrap again in foil
- Place in simmering water, weighted down, for about 6 hours.