How to make vietnamese New Year's cake (banh chung)
- Place rice in one bowl and mung beans in another. Cover each with water and soak overnight. (*)
- In a large bowl, combine pork, onions, fish sauce, and pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- While pork mixture is marinating, drain rice and beans thoroughly. Add salt to rice and stir well.
- In a skillet or wok, heat oil over medium heat. Add pork mixture and stir-fry until meat is cooked through but still tender, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine mung beans and about 1 cup water. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, or until soft. Remove from heat, drain, and mash beans with a potato masher or fork.
- On a countertop, spread out a piece of plastic wrap about 17 inches square. On top of this, place a sheet of aluminum foil of the same size. Place almost half of the sticky rice in the middle of the foil and shape rice into a square layer.
- Top rice with a layer of beans, using half of them. Place pork slices on top of beans. Add remaining beans and top off with most of the remaining rice.
- Wrap cake by bringing together two edges of foil and plastic wrap. Fold edges over twice and flatten against the side of the packet.
- Tuck remaining rice into the two open ends of the packet, covering up beans and meat. Fold the open ends as if you were wrapping a gift. Place packet, folded side down, on another large sheet of plastic wrap and wrap tightly. Tie securely with a long piece of heavy string or twine, lengthwise and crosswise. The packet should be square or rectangular.
- Place packet in a large stockpot full of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 4 hours, adding water if necessary. Remove from heat and cool for 1 hour.
- To serve, slice wrapped packet into 4 slices. Unwrap, arrange on a plate, and serve.
Preparation time: 45 to 55 minutes
(plus overnight soaking)
Cooking time: 4 3/4 hours
(plus 1 hour to cool)
(*) When traditional banh chung is prepared in Vietnam, the rice absorbs a slight green color from the banana leaves in which the cakes are wrapped. If youlike a little color in your dish, simply add a drop of green food coloring to the rice and water before leaving to soak.