Glutinous rice ball

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A simple breakfast it may be, but it is universally loved

  Bánh khúc
is served hot along with a salt and sesame mixture and costs around VND10,000.

Bánh khúc is a traditional glutinous rice cake and a rural staple in Vietnam.

Its origins are unclear though it probably came from the north. The name varies a little in other regions, where it may be called xôi khúc or xôi cúc, with xôi meaning sticky rice.

It may taste typically rural and simple, but still requires meticulousness and skill to get it right.

To make the rice ball, one needs cudweed, glutinous rice, plain white rice, mung beans, pork belly, and spices.

Not many know that it gets its aroma from cudweed, a kind of wild herb that grows near paddy fields and dykes in the north. But cudweed can easily be replaced with kohlrabi leaves, though the flavor may not be quite as good.

To make the glutinous rice ball, clean, rinse, and drain the cudweed and grind it fine.

The rice is an important ingredient, and to make good, pliable, sticky, and soft balls, choose the best glutinous rice.

Soak it along with plain white rice in water and drain. Mix eight portions of glutinous rice, two portions of plain white rice, and ground cudweed, and pound the mixture finely to make the rice dough. The plain rice helps make the dough firm.

The proportion of rice and ground cudweed, a vital aspect that determines the taste, is kept a secret by many chefs. If there is too much rice, the cudweed flavor may be lost somewhat; if there is too little, the balls will not be sticky or cohesive.

The stuffing is made of mung beans, pork belly, and spices.

Choose the best mung beans and soak them in water until the peels come off. Then pound them fine.

Pork belly is also important in the stuffing and it should not be too fatty. Cut it into small thin slices and marinate in some condiments and pepper. Pour this in a pot to stir fry a little.

Take some finely pound mung beans, add a little pork belly, and roll into small balls.

Soak some glutinous rice in water and drain, roll the balls on the glutinous rice until they are covered in a thin layer.

Place a pot for steaming over heat and put some banana leaves in it to add fragrance and prevent the glutinous rice outside from becoming wet or breaking up.

Place the balls inside to steam until done.

Bánh khúc is served hot along with a salt-sesame mixture. It costs around VND10,000, or half a dollar, for a ball.

One can enjoy this treat for breakfast on Ba Hat Street in District 10, Le Van Sy Street, and shops selling Hanoi specialties in Ho Chi Minh City.

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