Appetizers / Recipes

Sticky rice dumpling (the naked little cake)

Sticky rice dumpling is a popular snack or appetizer in Vietnam, especially in the North and the Central. When I was a kid, a common habit of the moms in my hometown was buying snack for kids when they went to grocery, and this used to be one of my favorite. People in big cities no longer do this, but if you attend a countryside feast, you may find these dumplings on the dining table as appetizer.
The Vietnamese name for this dumpling is Banh it, which, if barely translated into English, is the Little cake. Since there’re two versions of Banh it: One is wrapped in banana leaf and called regular Banh it, and the other is not wrapped and therefore called Banh it tran, which is translated as “the naked little cake”.

Well, if you’re going for a corn-beef and cabbage type of cooking, I gotta say this recipe requires a little bit of work, however if you’re hosting a brunch or a get-together, these dumplings are worth to try especially when you have some friends or family to help. It’s gonna be a fun kitchen experience.
There’re different fillings for these dumplings depending on what people want to do, however, the most common fillings are: Pork sausage (grounded pork), shrimp and pork, mung bean or combination of those three, which is the one I’m going to introduce below.
4 cups glutinous rice flour
2 cups warm water (about 175 degree F or 80 degree C)
0.5 lb (about 220 grams) fresh shrimp or prawn, peeled and deveined
0.5 lb (220 grams) lean pork sausage (grounded pork)
8 oz (about 225 grams) mung bean, shelled and split
1 bundle green onion
1/3 cup dried shrimp
3.5 tablespoon vegetable oil
3tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoon cracked white pepper
5 teaspoon salt, crushed
1/2 + 1 teaspoon tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoon cold water
1 piece banana leaf (about 1 feet or 30 centimeters)
1 Fresno chili pepper
Soak mung bean in warm water overnight. Before working, drain the water and soak again with cool water. Repeat this step again to wash the bean. Drain on a colander. Add 1 teaspoon salt and combine.
Soak dried shrimp in a bowl of warm water.
Transfer the bean to a steamer and steam it in a medium or large pot depending on the steamer you use. Use as much water in the pot for the better result but make sure the water surface in the pot does not touch the bottom layer of the bean. Steam the bean for about 30 minutes with lid cover (of course). About half time, open the lid, stir the bean all the way thoroughly using chopstick (or whatever suitable tool you have) to make sure the bean is cooked evenly. When it’s done, transfer to a large bowl to cool.
Meanwhile, combine 2 cup warm water with 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Transfer glutinous rice flour into a large bowl then gradually add the combined water. With a spatula or chopsticks, mix the flour and water well then set aside for the dough to rest.

Filling balls

Rinse and pat dry the shrimps on paper towel then chop finely. Marinate with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon cracked pepper. Reserve in a small bowl.
Marinate pork sausage with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon cracked pepper. Reserve in a bowl.
Rinse green onion, discard root ends and wilted green top. Finely chop the white roots and green leaves separately.

Now, it’s time to work the dough. Knead the prepared flour mixture all the way until you form a smooth dough which is not too dry and not too wet. If you use the right amount of flour and water, it should be no problem. However, if it’s too wet (which is a trouble for later step), you may wish to add an additional amount of flour gradually to the mixture and knead again. If it’s too dry (which will lead to broken dumplings when steaming), gradually add warm water and knead. Once you’ve had the nice dough, take a piece as big as two limes (don’t worry about the thickness now). Roll it in the between of your balms to make the wrap smoother, then using your fingers, flatten it with thinner center and thicker outer.
Place a filling ball in the center of the wrap then fold the wrap up to cover the filling. Seal the seam closely (there should not be any break). Remove extra dough on the sides, the top, the bottom and all the way around to reduce the wrap thickness but make sure that the wrap still covers all the filling.

Flatten the wrapper/Place the filling ball in the center of the wrap and seal seam/Remove extra dough at all sides

Once you’ve reduced the thickness of the wrap, spin the dumpling around in your balms to create a smooth and even look. Transfer 0.5 tablespoon oil into a dipping bowl, then with your fingers, rub a very light layer of this oil on the dumplings to keep them from being sticky later.
Rinse and wipe dry banana leaf. Using a brush, rub the left-over oil from previous step on the leaf. Tear it into 3-4 pieces, then layer on the steaming surface. Place the dumplings on this banana leaf layer. Leave spaces in between of the dumplings so that they won’t be stick together when steaming.

Spin the dumpling in your balms/ Place the dumplings on banana leaf layer

Bring water to rolling boil and steam the dumplings on high/medium heat for 10 minutes. Make sure you have enough water in the pot so that there’s enough hot steam to cook the dumplings, but again: Do not let water surface touch the dumplings.
Meanwhile, drain dried shrimp on a colander.
Combine chopped green parts of green onion with 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small pan then transfer to the green onion bowl to make green onion oil.
Saute dried shrimp in this pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a mortar and crush or to a small food processor and chop.

Combine 1/2 tablespoon sugar and 4 tablespoon cold water until the sugar is totally melted. Add in 2 tablespoon fish sauce and combine.
Rinse and core chili pepper then chop and add into the fish sauce mixture.

Combine green onion with hot oil/ crush dried shrimp in a mortar/ Prepare dipping sauce

Now the dumplings should be ready. Turn off the oven, remove the steamer out of the steaming pot and let the dumplings cool down a little bit, then transfer to a serving plate. Drizzle green onion oil and crushed dried shrimp on top. Serve with prepared dipping fish sauce.
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Preparation time: 1 hour 30 minutes (most of the time is busy)
Ingredients enough for 20 dumplings.

4 thoughts on “Sticky rice dumpling (the naked little cake)

  1. Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I would like to put in wrnitig like this additionally – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get something done.

      • this makes me incredibly happy. your mochi looks a mioilln times easier than any other recipe i’ve tried, and i have a box of rice flour back home.I think I’m going to try to make a red bean paste to make it more familiar :)

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