For the second edition of Delicious Vietnam, I’ll take an unusual approach to re-interpret one Viet dish – Bánh ít (savory mochi dumplings)
So first off, what is “bánh ít”? It is one of those dishes that fall into the “dumpling” category of Vietnamese cooking. The outer dough is made of glutinous rice flour. The filling has mince meat, prawns, mashed mung beans and onion.
In Hue, where this dumpling was christened, the making of “bánh ít” requires a lot of attention and details. I once saw a documentary on Hue imperial style cooking and it showed the whole preparation process. Typically, each dumpling was wrapped carefully with banana leaves. After cooking and cooling, this layer of leaves was removed, and a new layer was applied to achieve that ever-green and fresh presentation. So much effort in preparing a feast for the King, huh?
Nowadays, in the modern kitchen, we don’t really use banana leaves. Thus, the name “bánh ít trần”, aka “naked dumplings”, was born. They are certainly tasty even though the whole detailed presentation is lost. We like our banh it tran with spring onion mixture.
Lately the weather has not been too kind. Cold, windy and grey. I’ve been craving for some hot and steamy soup. Not exactly the thick or rustic soup, but something more elegant like a flavorful clear chicken broth… Having tasted such awesome chicken broth made by Ms Baklover, I know I have to make some.
Pairing savory mochi dumplings with the soup is a fun idea. I quite like the texture of glutinous rice wrapping – it’s sticky, a bit chewier than the normal kinds. Enclosed inside is the usual suspects – minced chicken meat, mixed with the sweetness of the diced prawns, the peppery spicy note from white peppers and that familiar aroma of spring onion. Seasoning is simple – good fish sauce, and perhaps a tiny bit of chicken powder. I have purposely left out the mung bean, since it does feel a bit heavy on the palate. But the star is the broth – And I cannot recommend this recipe enough. Just sprinkle some chopped spring onion and serve the soup hot. It’s heavenly on a cold rainy day.
(it may be good as a lovely late night snack for the coming World Cup season since most things can be prepared before hand and reheat. The mochi balls keep well for at least a day)
Enough for 4 servings as entrée. The amount of broth from here might be more than needed. Just freeze it for later. Make sure to let the dough rest. Be gentle when wrapping the filling.
200g glutinous rice flour
1 cup warm water, approximately
2tsp sea salt
100g minced meat
50g prawn meat, finely chopped
1 spring onion, finely chopped
White pepper, fish sauce, and salt to taste
1 quantity of light chicken broth, recipe here
To serve: 1-2 Shanghai bokchoy, clean.
Prepare the chicken broth beforehand.
Make the dough– Put glutinous rice flour in a bowl with some salt. Slowly pour in the warm water, mix to combine. Add enough water and adjust the amount of rice until a dough is form and it doesn’t feel too sticky. Knead lightly, then let the dough rest in a covered bowl for at least 30-40 mins,
Prepare the filling – mix all the ingredients together. Knead briefly until everything comes together. Set aside.
Making the mochi balls: pinch a piece of dough (about the size of table tennis balls), flatten it using your hands, put some filling in the center. Gently enclosed the filling, roll the dough lightly to get a round shape. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling. Make sure to cover the dough and the balls properly to prevent them from drying out.
Boil a large pot of water, add some salt. Prepare another bowl of cold water. When the water in the pot is boiled, add in several mochi balls, and let boil gently. The balls are cooked when they float to the surface. Take out with a slotted spoon and immediately refresh them in the bowl of cold water (to prevent them from sticking together). Finally, put in a separate bowl and keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the mochi balls.
Prepare the broth: Let the broth simmer for a little, briefly cook Shanghai bokchoy. Taste and adjust seasoning.
To serve, put some mochi balls in a bowl together with the Shanghai bokchoy. Ladle the hot soup over the dumplings. Serve hot, with extra sprinkle of pepper.
Inspirations needed? Here is the roundup of Delicious Vietnam #1!