Vietnamese Tet sticky rice cakes (banh chung) are a must-have for the Lunar New Year. When they’ve just been cooked, refreshed through a one-hour boiling, or warmed in the microwave oven, they are fabulously good. Each mouthful is redolent of the tea-like fragrance imparted by the leaves that the cake is wrapped in.
But if that’s not your cup of tea and/or you have leftovers, fry it up into a pancake! It works miracles on hardened, slightly-over- the-hill banh chung ("baan choong") too.
The recipe below is what I use for homemade banh chung that my family prepares. Ours are roughly 5 inches square and a good 2 inches thick. If you’ve got a bigger one, you’ll make more. Chill the sticky rice cake to make cutting it a little easier. You can certainly do this with the cylindrical banh tet too. I've seen rounds of that deep fried!
Pan-fried Tet Sticky Rice Cake
Banh Chung Chien
Makes 2 pancakes
1 Tet sticky rice cake (banh chung), unwrapped
2 to 4 tablespoons canola oil
1. Use a knife to quarter to cut the rice cake into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Set aside.
2. For each pancake, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Arrange half the slices in the skillet as close as possible, breaking them up if you have to. Fry, undisturbed for about 6 minutes, until the rice has softened.
3. Use a spatula to press and mash the chunks to form a pancake. When the underside is crispy and golden, 5 to 6 minutes, flip the pancake with a quick and confident jerk of the skillet handle (or slide the pancake onto a plate and invert into the skillet).
Increase the heat to medium high and fry the other side. If things seem dry, drizzle in more oil from the side. The pancake is done when the other side is crispy and golden, about 4 minutes. Slide it onto a plate, cut into wedges and then serve. Enjoy with a sprinkling of or dip in sugar. The savory sweet combination is divine.
What's your favorite way of eating banh chung? Got an idea for leftovers?