Let’s focus on the gastronomy of Huê, a city located in the center of Vietnam, and talk about the bánh bôt loc.
What are bánh bôt loc?
Bánh bôt loc are tapioca ravioli stuffed with shrimp and pork, garnished with fried shallots and fermented fish sauce, that the Vietnamese enjoy as a snack.
The gastronomy of Huê
The city of Huê has an exceptional cultural and historical heritage, a legacy of its imperial past that its gastronomy perfectly illustrates.
Under the Nguyen dynasty from 1802 to 1945, the city was indeed the imperial capital of Vietnam. The Emperor and the court lived there. It acquire great prestige both in the field of poetry and music as well as gastronomy.
The cuisine of central Vietnam and Huê is renowned as being very tasty, refined as well as spicier than that of the north or south of the country.
The imperial cuisine was varied and full of finesse. It is characterized by a very careful presentation and dishes whose preparation required time as well as a specific know-how to harmonize the flavors. Today in Vietnam, Hue is the only place where imperial culinary heritage lives on.
What does bánh bôt loc mean?
In Vietnamese, the term bánh can be translated as cake or bread, but it is actually used for a large number of preparations. This word actually refers to dishes made from flour. In Vietnam, these flours are mainly rice and tapioca.
It could be a cake, a bread, a pastry, a brioche, a sandwich, a pancake, a cream, a ravioli. This word does not refer to a type of cooking since these foods can be steamed, baked, fried or even boiled.
To identify the preparations, the Vietnamese add an adjective after “bánh” to complete the description.
There are plenty of examples, such as bánh xèo, a pancake of rice flour and turmeric, folded in half and garnished with pork, shrimps, bean sprouts and aromatic herbs, which owes the xèo qualifier to the sizzle that it produces during cooking.
is a coconut-flavored rice cake. Bò means beef or cow and its use here could be related to the fact that these little cakes look like the udder of a cow.
To finish with the etymology topic, we could translate bánh bôt loc by filtered flour cake since bôt means flour and loc means filtered. People talk about filtered flour because the cassava starch that makes up the dough is recovered by a filtering method.
How to prepare bánh bôt loc
There are actually two versions of these Vietnamese ravioli:
– bánh bôt loc lá is wrapped and cooked in a leaf (lá). This is the traditional version in which banana leaves or dong (stachyphrynium placentarium) are used to pack the preparation.
– bánh bôt loc trần, the variant without leaves, also called naked (trần), which correspond to our featured recipe.
These are not the only distinctions, as the consistency and cooking method also differ. Bánh bôt loc trần are cooked in water, the dough is kneaded and then shaped by hand. Bánh bôt loc lá are steamed and the dough spreads over the leaf, so it is a little thinner than the other variant.
In the Chinese cuisine, there are variants of bánh bôt loc trần such as dim sum called har gow or chaozhou fun guo, both from Guangdong, a province in southeastern China.
What is special about these ravioli lies in the dough: translucent after cooking, slightly elastic and sticky. Very interesting taste-wise and visually! This texture is obtained from the tapioca starch which features these characteristics.
Although it is fairly simple, the preparation requires however to be vigilant on a few points. First of all, the water must be really hot. If it is not hot enough, the starch will not combine properly and the dough will be brittle. On the contrary, the dough should look like playdough, be very flexible and not stick. You must be able to manipulate and stretch it easily.
The amount of water can vary depending on the quality of the starch. You can then add the second part of the starch gradually to adjust as needed.
To prevent the dough from drying, I recommend that you place it in a plastic bag after kneading and to close it between each shaping of meatballs.
Last, strongly pinch the two parts of the dough because cooking in boiling water will not be forgiving and all the stuffing may escape.
Finally, immediately after cooking, immerse the bánh bôth loc in cold water for a few minutes. This helps firm up the dough to prevent it from tearing, make it more transparent and also prevent them from sticking together. For this last point, green onion oil is used. In addition to flavoring the dish, it will help make the raviolis less sticky.
You can then drain the ravioli. Before serving, do not hesitate to steam them gently, it will make them tastier and softer.
Bánh bôt loc are not very well known to Westerners so this is an opportunity to surprise your friends. Especially since their elastic texture and their transparency make these mouthfuls such an original dish.
Bon appetit … Ăn ngon nhé!
- ½ lb small shrimps
- ½ lb pork belly meat
- 3 shallots , finely diced
- 1 tablespoon nuoc mam (fish sauce)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- Sunflower oil
- 1 lb cassava flour
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 scallions , chopped
- 2 shallots , chopped and fried
- ½ bunch cilantro , finely chopped
- Nuoc mam (fish sauce)
Cut the shrimps into small pieces and dice the pork.
Heat a frying pan over high heat.
Pour 4 tablespoons of oil. When it is hot, add the shallots.
Sauté them and add the pork. Brown for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the shrimp.
Add the nuoc mam, then the sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
Continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Let cool.
In a small saucepan over medium hear, add ½ cup vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the scallions. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Add ⅓ lb cassava flour into a bowl and the remaining ⅔ lb cassava flour into a separate bowl.
Add 1 cup of boiling water into the first bowl of cassava flour gradually while stirring with a spoon, then let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
Mix with the spoon and pour into the bowl containing the ⅔ lb of cassava flour. Mix with the hand until the dough becomes homogeneous and elastic.
Make small balls of 1 inch in diameter.
Take a small ball and roll it to make a mini flat cake, with your thumb and forefinger.
In the center of the dough, drop a little bit of pork and shrimp filling, close it in half (half moon) and seal it by pinching the edges.
Repeat the process to finish the filling and the dough.
Heat a pot of water, and when it is boiling, add the small shaped bánh bột lọc in the water.
Cook for about 5 minutes.
When all the bánh bột lọc rise to the surface of the water, take them out and drain them.
Before preparing the dish, heat the scallions in the oil. Drain them.
In a deep dish, place 6 bánh bột lọc per person.
Sprinkle with nuoc mam, chopped cilantro, scallions with oil and fried shallots.