My world is divided between people who like sticky rice and people who don’t. It’s a texture thing.
Patsy, Pierre, and Phil J belong in the non-sticky camp. They find the soft chewiness of sticky rice and rice flour dumplings objectionable.
Amy and David are firmly in the sticky camp; Korean dduk and Japanese mochi are favorites, and they prefer their rice overly wet.
Most of the rest of us are in the middle; we enjoy the chewy texture, but would not trade our first born for mochi. One of my favorite foods growing up was fried Niangao. Mom would take the brick like white cake out of the fridge, cut it into slices, and fry it up. Like other magical food transformations (jiffy pop, shrimp chips), it would change into a delicious treat: sweet and translucent, chewy and crispy.
So it was with high expectation that I made my first Vietnamese dumpling—Banh It. I love sticky rice flour dumplings, but Truth be Told, I was lured by the prospect of using bamboo leaf. What a cool vehicle for my dumplings! AND it would impart some new exotic flavor as well!
This recipe is adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings.
Steamed Sticky Rice Dumplings with Shrimp and Pork (Banh It). makes 12 dumplings
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 ounces ground pork (I used 8 ounces. 3 ounces just did not seem enough. I had some leftover filling which was delicious with rice)
2 shiitake mushrooms, soaked, stemmed, chopped. (her recipe calls for dried wood ear which I did not have so I doubled the mushrooms and used 4)
1/4 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, diced
1 tsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Saute onion in a little oil till soft. Add pork, breaking it up and continue to sauté until cooked through. Add mushrooms, fish sauce, salt, and pepper. Cook two minutes, then add Shrimp and cook 2 more minutes JUST UNTIL shrimp turns pink and is cooked through. Remove from heat and cool completely.
12 circles, 3.5 inches in diameter, cut from fresh or thawed, frozen banana leaf, rinsed and wiped dry. Arrange on counter or baking sheet and brush lightly with oil.
1 1/2 cups Mochiko Blue Star brand glutionous rice flour
3/4 cup Thai (Erawan) glutinous rice flour. I went to Marina and they stopped carrying this brand a couple of weeks ago. So I used all Mochiko flour.
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 tbsp water
Andrea’s book calls for stirring together the 2 flours and salt, then making a well in the middle and mixing in the water with a spatula then kneading with your hands to form a dough. I decided to put the flour + salt in my kitchenaid mixer, turned it on low and slowly poured in the water. One of the great joys of making dough is the therapeutic process of kneading dough. Bypassing any activity that could be helpful, productive or therapeutic, I figured the mixer could do the kneading and left it on for awhile.
This turned the nice stiff pliant dough into a sticky goopy mess, the texture of oobleck (thank you, 6th grade Lawrence Hall of Science field trip). I tossed this dough, but not before memorializing it for you in a photo:
Round 2 with the dough: stir with a spatula, then knead with your hands, like Andrea instructs. This dough is not nearly as pliant and fun as the Wheat Starch dough (see my previous FAILURE post). It’s a little grainy and, being made of rice, has no elasticity (Hello, gluten free).
Divide the dough into 12 portions. Take one portion, roll into a ball, and flatten into a small upside down Frisbee. Place a scoop of filling (about 2 tablespoons) into the Frisbee and push the sides of the dough up and around to seal, then toss the Frisbee-now-Ball back and forth between your palms to smooth the surface.
Place on one of your exquisitely cut bamboo leaf circles, and repeat till you’ve made 12 dumplings. Steam on high for 15 minutes. Let cool 5-10 minutes, and serve with a delicious dipping sauce.
These dumplings were not bad. The filling was fine but needs to be more flavorful.
They really need to be consumed fairly quickly, or the skin gets hard and grainy. If you steam them too long the skin gets goopy.
The banana leaf did not add any discernable flavor.
They were on the big side. I like little dumplings.
Initially I was happy with their appearance on the banana leaf. Then I looked at images of Banh It on line. Firstly, my bamboo leaf circles are not round. Second, in comparison to the beautifully decorated spheres I viewed, mine look like Olaf in summer.
When I make this again (yes, despite above they were good enough for a 2nd try) I plan to
- make the filling more flavorful, and add cilantro, oyster sauce and some other spices
- make them smaller. I am all about cute food.
- hire kindergarteners to cut better bamboo leaf circles.