Sunday, July 17, 2016

Banh Bot Chien, Vietnamese Fried Rice Flour Cake with Eggs

Banh bot chien is a Vietnamese street-food of crispy and chewy rice cakes surrounded by an omelet-style amount of eggs, green onions, and pickled radishes.  It is probably one of my most favorite things to eat.  There is a 24-hour Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant in Chinatown called Tan Tan and in my opinion, makes the very best banh bot chien.  My childhood was filled with Tan Tan's banh bot chien.  We'd often eat lunch there with my family and their friends after an early morning tennis match (that I probably got dragged along to).  Banh bot chien was the carrot on my stick on those super early mornings.

And it is extremely similar to Chinese jianbing, which according to this Tasting Table is the next big trend.  http://www.tastingtable.com/dine/national/jianbing-chinese-breakfast-crepes-mr-bing-nyc?utm_medium=email&utm_source=TT&utm_campaign=Weekend&utm_content=Editorial
I vaguely remember gobbling down some jianbing at a street stand one late night after clubbing with my friend Elizabeth in Beijing.  Something I would never have tried in a foreign country without someone I trusted...and alcohol.  

I don't think we ever made banh bot chien at home.  It was too easy to go get it from Tan Tan, and my mom probably never ate it growing up in Vietnam.  She never really had Vietnamese street food until she moved to the US!  But I decided to make this dish recently after stumbling upon pre-made rice cakes (Ming Phung, Inc. brand) at MT Supermarket, the Asian grocery store in Austin.  The rice cake, or the banh bot, part is probably the most labor intensive part.  You have to mix rice (or daikon or taro) flour and water over low heat forever, then cool this glutinous mass into a mold and steam it.  And then refrigerate it.  So that's a nice part to skip!  Once I purchased the banh bot, it was a breeze to make the rest.   Like making an omelette.  The important part was to have all the ingredients in place for assembly since it goes quickly after that.  I think traditionally, chunks of pork fat are used for frying and flavor, but I bought some pork belly from Central Market to use instead.I used a cast iron skillet because I'd read that the Vietnamese street vendors use cast iron griddles when they make it, but I'm sure any type of large skillet would work fine.

Ingredients: (Makes about 2-3 servings)
  • 1/2 block of pre-made banh bot chien cake, cut into domino-sized cubes
  • cornstarch to lightly coat cakes
  • 1/4" pork belly, cut in thick slices
  • 5 eggs, lightly scrambled
  • 3 green onions, shopped
  • 4 pickled radishes from a jar, minced
  • salt and pepper (muoi thieu Hue)
  • vegetable oil for frying
Dipping Sauce
  • 1 tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. dark molasses
  • 1 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. Srirachi sauce, plus additional for drizzling on top
Directions
  1. In a large bowl or large shallow pan, coat pieces of banh bot with a sprinkling of corn starch.  In a small, separate bowl, beat eggs with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat skillet over medium heat. Render the fat from the pork belly for about 5-10 minutes.  Remove pork belly from pan, reserving the fat.
  3. Heat pan up to medium-high heat and add additional vegetable oil if needed to allow about 1/2" oil and fat on bottom of pan.  Fry pieces of banh bot until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes each side.  
  4. Lower heat back down to medium and add pork belly and half of the sliced green onions.  Pour egg over the pan, moving eggs around to coat the bottom of pan as needed.  I lift up thicker edges and used a spatula to move around the egg mixture to areas of the pan that needed more.  Allow to set for about 3 minutes.  
  5. While waiting for everything to set, mix together the dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
  6. Using a plate about the size of the bottom of the pan, pot holders, and all the coordination you can muster, flip over the entire thing.
  7. Drizzle with Sriracha if you like it extra spicy.  Serve with dipping sauce

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