If you visited my other site this week, Asian Dumpling Tips, you’ll notice that I went on a daikon rice cake jag. I test drove a recipe for the dim sum favorite from The Dumpling cookbook and then developed a vegetarian version based on ones at Slanted Door restaurant in San Francisco. I have to admit that watching Charles Phan battle Cat Cora on Iron Chef America inspired the vegetarian daikon rice cakes. Plus I’m attending the CIA’s World of Flavors conference this weekend in Napa and the theme is street food and comfort food. All that converged and as I pondered how to repurpose all the daikon rice cake in my fridge.
Bingo — one way to use up some of the cake was to spiff up a Vietnamese street food favorite called bánh bột chiên (fried cakes, literally), which is made of crisp fried pieces of plain rice dough, with scrambled eggs, scallion and a tangy-sweet-spicy soy dipping sauce. Bot chien is a Chiu Chow (Triều Châu, Chinese people tied to Chaozhou, an area bordering Guangdong and Fujian provinces) invention and quite popular among school children as an after-school snack. Earlier this year, I had the dish at a Dynasty restaurant in San Jose, California, during their dim sum service. I noticed on Yelp that a small number of Vietnamese restaurants offer the dish too.
I have to be frank about traditional preparations of bột chiên – they seem rather bland. Graham Holiday in a 2004 post on Noodle Pie concurs. The cakes themselves aren’t seasoned with much but rely on the panfried crispy-chewy texture and richness of the egg to carry the day. Sometimes, the cakes and eggs are served with raw shredded daikon or some daikon and carrot pickle (do chua).
Given the pairing with fresh and/or pickled daikon, why not use the daikon rice cakes? They have more flavor than regular bot chien, which Houston Wok says is sold premade in the big state of Texas. I’ve not seen that much in California’s Vietnamese markets.
So I cut up some daikon rice cakes and gave it a whirl. The resulting banh cu cai bot chien was pretty darn good, especially after dipped in the sauce. Try it out. Both the traditional (with dried shrimp and sausage) and vegetarian (with shiitake mushroom) can be used for this recipe.
Crisp Daikon Rice Cakes with Egg and Scallion
Banh Cu Cai Bot Chien
Serves 1 as a snack
8 ounces daikon rice cake, traditional or vegetarian
1 large or jumbo egg
2 generous pinches of salt
1 generous pinch of black pepper
1 scallion, white and green part, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons regular (light) soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 Thai or Serrano chile, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce, homemade or store bought
1. Cut the daikon rice cake into pieces the size of dominos and a good 1/2 inch thick. Set aside.
2. Beat the egg with the salt and pepper. Then stir in all but 1 tablespoon of the scallion. Set aside.
3. Heat half the oil in a medium skillet over high heat. (You want these cakes extra crispy because the egg will soften it later on. Use high heat!) Add the radish rice cakes, wide flat side down. . Let them fry, undisturbed, for about 4 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. They’ll stick at first but will eventually release. Turn them over to brown the other side.
4. While the cakes fry, combine both kinds of soy sauces, vinegar, sugar and chiles to make the dipping sauce. Taste and adjust the flavor to ensure a savory-sweet-tangy-spicy finish. Set aside.
5. Add the remaining oil to the skillet, then decrease the heat to medium. Pour in the egg. Allow it to set for about 15 seconds, then use a spatula to repeatedly turn and stir the cakes so that they get coated with the egg. Once the egg has set and cooked through, about 45 seconds, transfer to a serving plate. Enjoy with the dipping sauce.