Bánh tét or Banh tet refers to a Vietnamese traditional cake with sticky rice crust and a cylindrical shape. The crust may contain beans or peas, natural food colorings, fillings are diverse and are made from banana, mung bean, pork fat, salted duck egg yolk, wood ears, etc.
Ingredients for Banh tet
Ingredients for the crust: include sticky rice (a must), beans, food colorings such as magenta plant leaves’ extract, pandan leaves’ extract, coconut (or coconut milk), banana leaves.
Ingredients for the fillings: bananas (usually apple bananas), pork fat, mung bean, salted duck egg yolk, wood ears, carrots, etc.
How to make?
1. Wash sticky rice for several changes of water, drain the rice using a basket or a strainer.
2. Peel dried coconut fruits, shred the meat. Pour boiling water over the shredded coconut meat, then extract coconut milk from the shredded coconut meat. In recent, many chefs use canned coconut milk in order to save time. Certainly, fresh coconut milk is always better.
3. Cook coconut milk in a big pan, when it boils, add dried sticky rice to the pan. Stir the mix continuously until the sticky rice turns sticky but not too mushy and the coconut milk is dried up.
4. Cut pork fat (with skin and a little lean pork) into long pieces, marinate them with green onion, salt and a little sugar (optional).
5. Peel mung beans, cook them with water, a little sugar, salt, coconut milk and stir well until receiving a smooth mung bean paste.
6. Spread mung bean paste on a plastic sheet and form it to a thin rectangle. Place the pork fat onto the mung bean. Wrap the mung bean around pork fat so that it has a cylindrical shape.
7. Vietnamese people usually make Banh tet with various fillings at the same time. After wrapping the savory filling with mung beans and pork fat, they usually prepare another filling. Banana is one of the most favorite ingredients for making the sweet filling.
It is easier to prepare banana filling, just peel the banana and mix them with sugar and a little salt.
9. Cut banana leaves from trees, dry them under the sun for a few hours so that they are stickier, clean them using wet clothes.
8. Spread some layers of banana leaves with a layer of the cooked sticky rice with coconut milk. Then place the cylindrical mung bean and pork fat fillings on the sticky rice. Wrap banana leaves around the sticky rice and fillings skillfully. Use strings made of dried banana leafstalks to tighten the cake.
10. Wrap the Banh tet with the banana filling in the same way.
11. Cook the cakes in a big pot for over 6 hours. The water should cover the cakes. It is better to cover the pot with banana leaves. Or they can use a lid to cover the pot.
11. Hang cooked Banh tet to make sure they are dry. Then put them on baskets. They can be stored for about 3 days.
How to serve Banh tet?
In order to serve Banh tet, just use a sharp knife to cut it into circles. They can unwrap the banana leaf wrap before arranging the circles onto a plate. The crust must be sticky, the filling should be in the center and has the smell of banana leaves.
Banh tet in Vietnamese culture
Banh tet is not only a food, a cake but also a must at important celebrations, anniversaries and festivals in Vietnam, especially South Vietnam. It is a must food at Tet festival and on death anniversaries in Southern provinces.
Similar to Banh chung (Square sticky rice) which is popular in North Vietnam, Banh tet is the symbol of reunion in the South. There are many steps to make Banh tet, from cutting banana leaves to harvesting coconut fruits, from wrapping cakes to cooking them for hours. Members of families usually gather, prepare ingredients for these cakes, sit together, talk to each other, laughing while forming the filling, wrapping the cakes in banana leaves, tightening them with strings. They stay up late, keep talking or play some traditional games and wait until the cakes are well-done.