Banh beo - Steamed rice cake with savoury top

By Helen Le Published: June 5, 2011

  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Ready In: 2 hrs 30 mins

  • Yield: 4-6 Servings

Banh beo is a specialty of central Vietnam, especially popular in Da Nang, Hue, Quang Nam and Quang Ngai. It is basically made from rice flour and tapioca starch, topped with minced shrimp (Hue style) or a mixture of pork and shrimp (Da Nang/Quang Nam style). A simple yet elegant, cheap yet delicious dish which can be eaten throughout the day!

  • “Cheating” way to make banh beo using prawn crackers: Boil prawn crackers for 15 mins with 1tsp oil. Drain and rinse with cold water. Immediately spread them on a plate to avoid them from sticking to each other.
  • Traditional method: In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice flour, tapioca starch and water. Stir well and allow the mixture to rest for 1 hour to reduce the strong flour smell. Then add salt and cooking oil. Transfer to a tea pot or a jug for easy pouring. Stack small condiment bowls in a steamer and steam the empty bowls for 2 minutes. Wrap the lid of the steamer with a thick kitchen towel to prevent water from dripping into the cakes. Then pour a thin layer of the mixture in each bowl and steam for 4 minutes. Take out and allow them to cool. Each cake should have a nice "dimple". Stir up the mixture once in a while. Repeat until finish the batter.
  • To make Hue-style topping, season the shrimps with ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper and ½ tsp chicken stock. Set aside for 15 minutes. Steam for 5 minutes or microwave for 2-3 minutes until they turn orange. In a mortar and pestle, grind the prawns till a rough texture. Then roast in a pan (without oil) on medium low heat for 1-2 minutes to remove some of the moisture till separated.
  • To make Quang-style topping, in a heated pan on medium high heat, add the pork belly and fry without any oil for 2-3 minutes. Some fat will melt into liquid form. Add minced shrimp and shrimp paste. Dilute 4-5 tbsp of the banh beo batter with 4-5 tbsp water and slowly add to the pan until you get a slightly thick consistency.
  • To make the sauce: In a sauce pan cook the shrimp shells and simmer for 5 minutes. Extract the broth and discard the shells. Apply 1:1:5 ratio: 1 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp sugar, 5 tbsp shrimp broth. Crush fresh chili with a spoon and add to the fish sauce.
  • To assemble the dish, remove the cakes from the molds and spread evenly on a plate. Grease the cakes with some scallion oil. Top up with your choice of topping. Garnish with crispy pork skin / fried shallot / crushed roasted peanuts. Drizzle some sauce over and serve! It can also be served in the mold itself with a topping of your choice.