These delicious Vietnamese steamed rice cakes (bánh bèo) are topped with velvety mung bean, prawn floss, fried pork fat, and a drizzle of scallion oil for the perfect combination of flavor and texture.
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Vietnamese people love grazing on street food all day long. Whenever I went to the market with my mom, we would order a few items for breakfast, buy our grocery, then grab desserts on the way back. One breakfast that I really enjoyed was bánh bèo or Vietnamese steamed rice cakes. These delicious steamed rice cakes are topped with velvety mung bean, prawn floss, fried pork fat, and a drizzle of scallion oil for the perfect combination of flavor and texture.
Bánh bèo variations
Bánh bèo is a specialty of central Vietnam, especially in Đà Nẵng, Huế, Quang Nam and Quang Ngai. It is made from a batter of rice flour and tapioca flour, topped with minced shrimp (Huế style) or a mixture of pork, shrimp, and wood ear mushroom (Da Nang/Quang Nam style) and served in the little bowls. Southern Vietnamese have their own version called bánh bèo miền Nam, where the steamed rice cakes are topped with steamed mung bean in addition to the regular toppings and served on a plate. My family lived in a town called Thủ Đức, south of Saigon so we love the southern bánh bèo version.
How to make the steamed mung bean
You’ll need to soak the mung beans for 6 hours or overnight. Once they’re softened, it will be easier to steam. The mung bean needs a little bit of salt for flavor and gets blended in a food processor to create a smooth filling. You can make the mung bean a day ahead and leave them in the fridge covered with plastic wrap to save time.
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How to make prawn floss
Prawn floss adds saltiness, texture, and taste to the Vietnamese steamed rice cakes. You can make prawn floss from fresh prawns/shrimp or dried prawns/shrimp depending on your preference. I use dried prawns for convenience and shorter cooking time. You can find dried prawns/shrimp at your local grocery store. Soak them in water for two hours to rehydrate, blend them in a food processor until pulverized, and use them as toppings for the steamed rice cakes. If you”re not using them right away, keep them in an airtight container for a week in the fridge or pantry.
How to make the fried pork lard
The crispy fried pork lard adds texture and richness to the Vietnamese steamed rice cakes (bánh bèo). I ask the butcher at my local Vietnamese grocery store for a good section of fat, usually the layer in between the the skin and meat of pork belly. After cutting the fat into small cubes, I transfer the cubes to a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and let the fat slowly rendered out.
How to make the scallion oil
Scallion oil or mở hành is a Vietnamese staple. It adds aroma, flavor, and color to many dishes. Some people make scallion oil only with just the green parts. It’s not wrong to add the white parts depending on your preference. Use a neutral oil like vegetable oil or canola oil so it can pick up the flavor of the scallion. Sliced scallion, vegetable oil, and a bit of salt go into a pan for a few minutes until the scallion becomes soft.
Tips for steaming the bánh bèo
To save time and make things more efficient, make the prawn floss the day before. Mix the bánh bèo batter first and let it rest while you make the steamed mung beans, friend pork lard, scallion oil, and dipping sauce.Let the batter rest for an hour after you mix it. Give the batter a quick stir to redistribute the flour that had settled at the bottom.Use small, shallow bowls for steaming the rice cakes. You can find these bowls at Vietnamese grocery stores.Make sure to grease the bowl with vegetable/canola oil before pouring the batter in. It will make removing the rice cakes easier.One tablespoon of batter takes about 5 minutes to steam which creates a thin rice cake.If you like thicker rice cakes, use one and a half tablespoon of batter which will take about 7-8 minutes.Use tongs to remove the bowls so you don”t burn yourself. Wait until the bowls are cool enough to handle before removing the steamed rice cakes from the bowl. This recipe makes about 8-10 servings so scale down if you”re cooking just for yourself and another person.
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It”s easy to overindulge in these Vietnamese steamed rice cakes because they taste so delicious! Just as you savor the tender rice cake topped with velvety mung bean, rich scallion oil, salty prawn floss, crunchy fried pork lard, and spicy dipping sauce, that whole bite is gone. These bánh bèo bring all the flavor and texture of Vietnamese street food!
For more Vietnamese street food inspiration, check these recipes: Vietnamese savory prawn coconut pancakes, Vietnamese crepes, Vietnamese prawn sweet potato fritters.