BÁNH ÍT (Steamed glutinous rice cake) is a popular type of steamed cake in Vietnam, made from glutinous rice flour and green bean paste, coconut, or other ingredients with steamed method. They can be sweet or savory. They have two parts: Outer (shell) is made by glutinous rice flour, Inner (kernel) is made by many ingredients (usually mung bean, coconut, … or mixture of them). The inner part (kernel) is cooked lightly before being carefully wrapped in the dough (made by glutinous rice flour), and then wrapped with LÁ DONG (Stachyphrynium placentarium) or banana leaves. They have many different shapes such as triangle and square in the North, long cylinders in the Central, pyramid (wrapped with banana leaves) in the south of Vietnam.
Unwrapped BÁNH ÍT is called BÁNH ÍT TRẦN (usually savory cake).
But wherever is called BÁNH ÍT, It is sure being wrapped with banana leaves (very popular in the South).
Similar to BÁNH ÍT there are BÁNH Ú, BÁNH Ú LÁ TRE, BANH BÁ TRẠNG, …, these cake are cooked in the same way, but the outer (shell) is made by glutinous rice (not flouring form).
BÁNH ÍT is popular in TẾT (Vietnamese new year Festival – Lunar new year). They are used to worship ancestors, or sometimes used as gifts.
Here is BÁNH ÍT NHÂN DỪA (BÁNH ÍT with sweetened coconut) recipe:
- 400 gr glutinous rice flour
- 300 ml boiling water ( less or more a bit)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoon sugar
- 1 coconut ( or 500 gr fresh grated coconut )
- 110 gr white sugar (more or less up to your taste)
- 100 ml water
- 100 gr roasted peanuts, cracked (optional)
- 50 gr roasted white sesame seeds (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch, mixed in a bit of water as thickened agent
- Making Outer part (shell): In a mixing bowl, put glutinous rice flour together with 3 tablespoons sugar, half teaspoon salt. Slowly add 300 ml boiling water, use a wooden spatula to mix them well blended. Knead the dough until it is not sticky in wall of bowl and your fingers. Cover and let it stands about 1 hour.
- Use a coconut grater to grate the coconut (white part only). (forget this step if you use grated coconut)
- Making Inner part (kernel): In a wok with medium heat, boil 100 ml water, add in sugar (110 gr), a little salt (1/3 tsp), add grated coconut, saute the mixture to well combined, add cornflour (mixed in water) to get a thickened paste. Turn off the heat, add in with roasted peanuts, sesame seeds (optional), let mixture cool down. Make into 15 balls.
- Knead the dough again, then divide to 15 parts, make them into 15 balls.
- Flatten the dough-ball, put the kernel (coconut mixture) in the middle, wrap and seal around, then shape into a ball. Do the same process until finishing all of them.
- Oil two pieces of banana leaves then fold them into funnel shape (see picture), put the cake ball in, then wrap carefully. Do until finishing.
- Steam the cake about 25 to 30 minutes or until cooked well. It is served as dessert, or any time as a snack. Bánh Ít can be kept a few days at room temperature or 1 week in fridge.
Notes: The inner part of BÁNH ÍT: you can use half of grated coconut and half of cooked mung beans (paste) or only cooked mung bean (paste), sometimes, durian is added for more flavor. It is also cooked in savory cake, in this case, the inner is usually mung bean paste, sauteed and seasoning with salt, pepper, spring onions. The shell can be lightly sweet.