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Bánh Chưng (Rice Cake)

Servings: 14 3-Inch Cakes
Author: Hue-Chan Karels


  • 2 cups dried split mung beans, washed and soaked in water 4 hours or overnight
  • 5 1/2 cups glutinous or sweet rice, “sticky rice”, washed and soaked in water 4 hours or overnight
  • 1 pound pork butt/shoulder or belly or combination, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/3 cup shallots, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce, adjust to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper, adjust to taste
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons salt, adjust to taste
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen banana leaves, defrosted
  • Kitchen twine


  • Place mung beans in a pot filled with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook, occasionally stirring, until very tender, about 30–45 minutes. Drain, then put in a food processor with 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil; pulse until beans are mashed and all ingredients are well combined. Set aside.
  • Drain and season the soaked sticky rice with 1 tablespoon salt.
  • Season the pork with fish sauce, 2 teaspoons pepper,
  • garlic and shallots; marinate in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.
  • Heat remaining oil in a frying pan over moderate heat. Add pork pieces and all the marinade; stir just until the meat is brown around the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
  • To reduce cooking time, use a 3-inch x 3-inch mold. For a traditional, family-size cake, use a 6-inch x 6-inch mold.
  • To start, soften the banana leaves by wilting in single layers in a 200°F oven for 5-10 minutes. Then, cut and line the molds with 2 to 3 pieces of banana leaves, making sure that the edges are padded to avoid any spillage or leakage. The dark side of the leaves should face inside the mold (this will tint the rice a light green color), leaving enough banana leaf to cover the cake.
  • Make 1/3- to 1/2-inch layer of sticky rice, spreading it up the sides of the mold. Add about 2 tablespoons of mung bean paste, spreading it to cover the sticky rice layer. Add another 1/3- to 1/2-inch layer of sticky rice to the sides, then place a layer of pork and another layer of mung bean paste. Make sure all the sides are covered with sticky rice. Lay the final layer of sticky rice on top and press everything down tightly.
  • Bringing all the sides of the banana leaves together, remove the entire mixture from mold and wrap. Then coat the entire cake with another piece of banana leaf, the dark and shiny side on the outside. Tie with twine, loosely enough to allow the rice to expand, but not too tightly.
  • In a steamer, steam on low to medium heat for 2 hours (for 3-inch x 3-inch cakes). Turn the cakes half-way through and check the water in the steamer. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool for 1 hour.
  • To serve, cut the cake diagonally from corner to corner (without unwrapping). Once cut, remove wrapping and arrange slices on a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. If wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, the cake will keep up to 1 week.