Inspired by the Vietnamese food market photos shared with Weekend Cooking by Jackie of Junkboat Travels, I decided to cheat today and write about Bánh Chúng (Rice Cakes) – one of the Vietnamese recipes my husband has been trying over the past few months. (I say “cheat” because my only participation in the cooking was to take the photos and to hold a finger on the string when the knots were being tied.)
He modified the vegetarian recipe for he found on the Kitchn by adding some spicy shredded pork in the center. The Vietnamese students (a group of six nuns or “sisters”) whom my husband is tutoring twice a week to help them learn enough English to attend college here said the rice cakes tasted authentic.
The name “rice cakes” is a little misleading, because they’re nothing like the crunchy puffed rice cakes we might buy at the store here.
Bánh Chúng are constructed like tamales. They are made by molding glutinous (sticky) rice around scoops of mashed beans and spiced, shredded meat, on top of banana leaves; wrapping the leaves around the rice; tying them up with string; and simmering the tidy little packages in a big stockpot of water for about six hours.
Mouse over the photos to read the captions for more details!
Very elaborate and time-consuming to make, but my husband enjoys learning from his students (a charming group of six nuns from a Dominican order in Vietnam staying in a convent near us) and he has taught himself some Vietnamese, as well. It was a great snow day project!
The Lunar New Year fell on February 19 this year, right in the midst of several record-setting snowstorms, but roads were clear enough at the time for the celebration to go on. The snow also allowed my husband to be one of the drivers for a fun sledding expedition with his students that month!
Happy Weekend Cooking!