New Year’s Cake

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New Year’s Cake / Banh chung

No Tet celebration is complete without this special rice cake. Although it takes a long time to
prepare, the final product is well worth the effort.

Ingredients

Serves 4
– 2 c. sticky rice
– ¼ c. dried mung beans, hulled
– 6 oz. boneless pork shoulder or roast, cut into ø-inch slices
– 2 tbsp. green onions, chopped
– 1½ tbsp. fish sauce
– ½ tsp. pepper
– ¼ tsp. salt
– 1½ tbsp. vegetable oil
– 1 c. water
– plastic wrap
– aluminum foil
– string

Instructions

Step 1:
Place rice in one bowl and mung beans in another. Cover each with ¼ c. dried mung beans, hulled water and soak overnight.*

Step 2:
In a large bowl, combine pork, onions, fish sauce, and pepper. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Step 3:
While pork mixture is marinating, drain rice and beans thoroughly. Add salt to rice and stir well.

Step 4:
In a skillet or wok, heat oil over medium heat. Add pork mixture and stir-fry until meat is cooked through but still tender, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 5:
In a medium saucepan, combine mung beans and about 1 c. water. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, or until soft. Remove from heat, drain, and mash beans with a potato masher or fork.

Step 6:
On a countertop, spread out a piece of plastic wrap about 17 inches square. On top of this, place a sheet of aluminum foil of the same size. Place almost half of the sticky rice in the middle of the foil and shape rice into a square layer.

Step 7:
Top rice with a layer of beans, using half of them. Place pork slices on top of beans. Add remaining beans and top off with most of the remaining rice.

Step 8:
Wrap cake by bringing together two edges of foil and plastic wrap. Fold edges over twice and flatten against the side of the packet.

Step 9:
Tuck remaining rice into the two open ends of the packet, covering up beans and meat. Fold the open ends as if you were wrapping a gift. Place packet, folded side down, on another large sheet of plastic wrap and wrap tightly. Tie securely with a long piece of heavy string or twine, lengthwise and crosswise. The packet should be square or rectangular.

Step 10:
Place packet in a large stockpot full of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 4 hours, adding water if necessary. Remove from heat and cool for 1 hour.

Step 11:
To serve, slice wrapped packet into 4 slices. Unwrap, arrange on a plate, and serve.

Note:
When traditional banh chung is prepared in Vietnam, the rice absorbs a slight green color from the banana leaves in which the cakes are wrapped. If you like a little color in your dish, simply add a drop of green food coloring to the rice and water before leaving to soak.

Food: New Year’s Cake

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