Recipe Box: Imperial Bánh Bèo (Huế)
A quick recipe for Vietnamese ‘Bánh Bèo’ that you can make at home in less than 30 minutes with a large steaming pot and a few muffin tins.
Depending on which region of Vietnam you want to stay true to – there are a few different ways to make Bánh Bèo, which are – essentially – bite sized lilly pads of steamed rice cake, topped with minced shrimp, and deep fried scallions. I grew up eating the version that comes from the royal region of Vietnam, also known as the Imperial city of Huế. In other versions, you’ll find these little pads of rice cake topped with mung bean paste – but I’m not a big fan of mashed beans, so I’m going to stick with what I know, and what my grandmother taught me (sorry!).
In addition to the minced shrimp, each lilly pad is normally topped with scallions that are fried in pork fat, and tiny cubes of crispy pork rinds. This is the ideal way to prepare the fried scallions, however -this recipe doesn’t call for that (sorry again! ). Since, let’s be honest – not everyone has a chunk of pork skin lying around in their fridge, I’ll show you what to do without it. If you want to go all out – you can also just use tiny cubes of chopped bacon, or pork belly, and cook your scallions in the fat – but I’ve simplified the recipe so that all you need is a few sprigs of scallion, and some canola oil for topping.
By the way – this is my grandmother’s recipe! Below are photos of her preparing the dish.
In addition to fresh, chopped shrimp – we also used a few tablespoons of shredded, dry shrimp – which you can find in large packets at any asian grocery store. After washing a hand full of dry shrimp, you can grind it for a few minutes in your food processor to use in this recipe.
The sauce in the white dish is a Vietnamese topping called ‘Nuoc Mam’ – which is a sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy combination of fish sauce, rice vinegar and red chillies that you can make with this recipe. For the full experience – pour this sauce over your entire plate of tiny rice cakes, before you chow down.
- 1 lb. of shrimp (cleaned and deveined)
- 2 tbsp of dried shrimp (washed and ground)
- 2 cups of rice flour
- 1 tbsp of corn starch
- 2 cups of cold water
- 2 cups of boiling hot water
- 1/2 tbsp of salt
- 3 tbsp of canola oil
- 2 sprigs of scallions (chopped)
- 2 tsp of pepper
- 2 tsp of chicken powder
- Heat a large steaming pot of 1/4 filled water to boil. (Make sure there is a small rack at the bottom so you can put your muffin tin on top later)
- Combine the rice flour, corn starch, and 2 tsp of salt.
- Add the 2 cups of cold water to the dry mixture in a large bowl, and stir until the liquid is smooth, and there aren’t any more visible chunks of powder.
- Add in the hot water, and stir.
- Add the 2 tbsp of canola oil, stir, and set aside.
- Ladle a spoon full of the mixture into each individual muffin tin, and place the tin in the steam pot for about 8-10 minutes.
- Take out your muffin tins when the rice cakes become solid.
- Carefully slip them out with a spoon, and place them on a plate to cool.
- Repeat steps 1-8 until you’ve made all of your rice cakes.
- While you wait, clean and devein the shrimp, boil it in salted water for about 5 minutes, or until pink and opaque.
- Drain, and set aside.
- Peel off the shell and tail, halve each shrimp, and mince into tiny cubes. Set aside in a bowl.
- Wash any loose sand off of your dried shrimp, and put it in a food processor.
- Grind for about two minutes, and set aside.
- In a sauce pan, heat a tbsp of canola oil.
- Add the dried shrimp, chopped shrimp, chicken powder, pepper, a tsp of salt, and saute for about 5 minutes. Set aside.
- In another sauce pan, bring the heat to medium high, and add the 3 tbsp of canola oil.
- Add the chopped scallions, and stir for about 3 minutes. (This is where you can get fancy and cook the scallions in your pork rinds and fat, instead of the canola oil)
- Top each rice cake with your shrimp mixture, and lastly – the fried scallions.
- Serve with a small bowl of Nuoc Mam, and enjoy.
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