05 December 2010

Banh Chung test drive

Oh if I knew what I got myself (and my hubby) into on Saturday. I got everything ready for my very first attempt of making banh chung. I have never made banh chung in my life. My inspiration came from the fact that my "ba co", which in this case is my mom's aunt, can't make any banh chung for us for Tet next year. So I thought why don't I give it a try. I searched online for a recipe and for step by step instructions. It turns out that banh chung only have 3 main ingredients, sticky rice, yellow mung beans and fatty pork. Sounds easy enough. Then I found really nice step by step pictures showing how to wrap banh chung, using a square mold. Because it was snowing bad here I didn't had time, I actually didn't wanna go out, to get wood to make a mold so I looked everywhere in the house for something square.This is a 2 liter water container which I cut into pieces to make a mold.Very inventive of me huh. After I made the mold I wrapped it with foil. After that I continued the banh chung adventure by preparing all the other ingredients.These are pork strips where I already got the skin off. Skin tast good in thit kho, but not in banh chung. Try to buy some of the more fatty pork. It will make your banh chung tast so good.This is how it looks like after I was done seasoning it with salt, pepper, thinly sliced onion and garlic powder. All wrapped and ready to go to the fridge so all the flavors can marry together. This has to sit a least one day. So season it today and ready to use tomorrow, at latest the next dayI already soaked the yellow mung beans and the sticky rice. I think this time I used about 1,5 kilo yellow mung beans, 2,5 kilo sticky rice and almost 2 kilo of banana leaves.Since it was my first attempt I wanted to make just a couple first. But they have to cook for at least 7 hours I might as well make it worth wild.The sticky rice and the mung beans are soaked in water for a day. The beans gain half their weight. After one day soaking drain the water and put them back. I actually read somewhere that it might be faster to cook the beans first so that is what I did. I put the beans in a large pot with some water and boiled them till they were cooked but still kept their shape. After that I put half a can of coconut milk and stirred that in. Set aside till you are ready to wrap the banh chung.Next is cleaning the banana leaves. I actually never used banana leaves before. I guess I never had a good excuse to use them. Since I started this blog there are a lot of first times. I found that the leaves were very dirty. I had to hand wipe each and every leaf I used. What a job! You see the partition of the leaf on the bottom of the picture? You will have to use a scissors to cut that off. It will be too hard to handle and you'll be having a hard time as it is already.I layered the defrosted banana leaves on the big piece of foil and on top of that I put the fresh banana leaf. As you can see the frozen leaves are slightly darker then the fresh leaves.I put two scoops of sticky rice and 2 scoops of the beans/coconut mixture on the leaves. Spread it out a little. It doesn't have to look pretty, just needs to be evenly spread.Put a nice piece of meat on the beans. The meat I marinated was a little bit to long for the little package I was making so I cut them shorter.After that put two scoops of beans and cover it up with some extra rice. Lift the banana leaves up and role it like a sushi role.Add the two sides together and make sure you wrap it tightly.Then use the foil below the leaves and do the same. The end result should look like this. At this time you might have figured out that I didn't use the square mold. After all the trouble of finding one and making it, I found out the hard way that making a square one is much more difficult then a round one. Of course I tried it first and it took me 1 hour to make just one banh chung. After the forth one I gave up and started to make the round ones, banh tet, which I found way easier then the square ones. What was I thinking wasting lots of time trying to make square ones.Make sure you tie the package with a string to keep the water out. I tied the two ends together first and then made my way down by making little round segments. This is my hubby laying a last finger so I can tie it all down.You know it is home made when no package looks the same. I made 19 banh tet (the round ones) and 3 banh chung.Don't they look funny? It took me blood, sweat and tears to make them.After 7 hours in boiling water they don't look to appealing, but wait....After peeling away the foil and all the banana leaves the jummie stuff appears.Don't you wish you could smell the banana leaves, the sticky rice, the beans and the meat. Some people like to eat it just like that. Some prefer it with some "Maggi" or sugar.This is the way I like it. I baked them in a pan with some oil so they get nice and crispy on the outside and soft and sticky in the inside. I eat it with some pickeled daicon roots mom made earlier. And of course with some Maggi. To bad I didn't had any picked spring onions (cu kieu). They would taste good with banh chung also.
It was quite an adventure to make this. If I knew how long it would take do this, I would've think it over. My hubby and I woke up at to start wrapping the banh chung. We didn't finish till . At around 11 we head out to the supermarket to get some extra rope. So I had a little break from wrapping. I started cooking it at the house at and at I brought it over to my sisters. She's cooking on gas which is better then on induction. We didn't finish till 11 pm. Pfff make sure you have plenty of time on your hands if you want to make this.

I left 4 banh at my sisters and the next day my other sister took 7 home, 3 for her and 4 for mom and dad. It was so good she wished she lived closer so she could swing by and get some more. No need to say that we ate a lot of banh tet the days after. But it was soooo worth it!

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