Vietnamese rice pyramid dumplings

Nga Do
If you’re enamored by dumplings at all, you probably have a list of comforting favorites. I’m partial to this Vietnamese dumpling wrapped in banana leaf as it was part of my childhood. My mother prepared dozens of these northern Vietnamese bánh giò (“baan zaw”) for our family to enjoy for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Commonly found at Vietnamese delis and sandwich shops, these dumplings are best when made at home and eaten fresh from the steamer, when they are soft and redolent of the tealike fragrance of the banana leaf wrapper. Inside, the firmish-soft rice dough encases a savory pork, shallot, and wood ear mushroom.

White rice is staple food and also an essential ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. Simple yet versatile, white rice can be ground into flour to make many different types of rice cakes, among which bánh giò stands out for its unique shape and flavour.

Bánh giò, a specialty of Hanoi, is deemed as a filling breakfast choice or a tasty evening treat. To foreigners, the cake is known as Vietnamese rice pyramid dumplings for its pyramid shape formed by wrapping banana leaves. Fresh green banana leaves are first carefully chosen, rinsed and dried before being curved into such a pyramid-shaped mould. It is then respectively filled with well mixed rice batter and a mixture of sliced wood ear mushroom, lean minced pork and finely chopped shallots, which has previously been seasoned with pepper, salt and fish sauce. Another layer of rice batter is added on top of the mould. At last, it is skillfully wrapped to ensure the cake is well cooked without water getting in while boiled.

Bánh giò can be found in almost all residential areas and markets in Hanoi. It is common to see the image of bánh giò inside a small white styrofoam box that is used to keep the dish warm. What can be better than rubbing your hands and enjoying bánh giò at a small corner of Hanoi while the bitter wind is blowing outside on winter days? The warmth and the subtle fragrance of rice mingling with banana leaves that exude from the cake is simply irresistible. Bánh giò is at its best when served hot, and since the cake filling is already well seasoned, it can be enjoyed without any toppings. However, pickled cucumber, giò lụa (pork roll) and a few drops of chili sauce sometimes can be added for a more pungent taste.

To enjoy as well as learn more unique dishes of Vietnam, you can visit:

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