Speedy Vietnamese Glutinous Rice Cake (Banh giay)
Today, I’m sharing an all-time favourite rice dish – a Vietnamese glutinous rice cake steamed in banana leaf (Banh giay – Bánh giầy). This is a less known “cousin” of Bánh Chưng despite being originated at the same time as the (Vuong King VI’s) legend has it.
The lunar New Year, also known as Tết in Vietnamese, is the longest, biggest and most festive holiday in Vietnam, that has just passed. Going hand-in hand with many family and folk traditions, food is a serious matter that takes days, weeks, or for some even months to plan, order/purchase, prepare, cook, serve and eat. And one of the most important ingredients is rice, especially the glutinous variant, also the most basic and integral national food. During this full-week celebration of Tết, many of us are lucky enough to go overboard with sticky rice (xôi) and various types of glutinous rice cakes (Bánh Chưng, Bánh Tét, Bánh Nếp, etc). They come in countless shapes from round, square, cone, to cylinder, with fillings and flavours from as far as one could imagine from sweet to savoury, and cooked with different cooking methods from steaming, boiling, (deep-)frying, and baking. For those, like me, who live abroad or away from family, Tết is often a memory, a reminiscence, and a luxury. And any day that we can cook or eat an authentic Vietnamese dish, it reminds us of our New Year.
Traditional vs. modern method
Banh giay is more native to northern Vietnam, especially in rural villages and amongst the ethnic populations. The rice is carefully selected from the best harvest and steamed twice before being processed. It is traditionally pounded in a giant mortal until reaching a smooth sticky paste. However, with time and technology, such method is not widely used nowadays. Modern recipes replace whole rice with rice flour for convenience and availability.
The first time I made them was a few years ago, following a YouTube recipe from Runawayrice. Since then I’ve made a few adjustments in ratios and tried using wholegrain rice flour instead of regular rice flour. Good news! Every single time was was a success 😊.
So here is my speedy recipe for the famous Vietnamese glutinous rice cake – banh giay. They will be ready in less than an hour, already including 30-minute dough resting and 15-min hands-free steaming time. These smooth rice “pillows” have distinctive ricey taste, and a chewy yet not overly sticky texture. They are best served with Vietnamese steamed pork roll (Giò lụa) or the fried version Chả. If you can’t find good ones at Asian stores, pair them with your favourite Asian-style chicken, pork, or vegan dish.
What you will need
- Glutinous rice flour
- 1-2 table spoon of regular rice flour
- Vegetable or mild olive oil
- Hot water
- A steamer or a steamer basket
- Banana leaf for lining, which can be bought fresh or in frozen section at Asian stores.
If you remember, there’s another epic recipe using banana leaf on the blog – Asian-style Steamed Salmon. So with just one pack of banana leaf, you can freeze and use for multiple Asian dishes for months.
💡 A few tips for the best rice cakes
TIP 1: Regular rice flour is recommended in small quantity but not a must. It simply makes the dough less sticky and more workable. However, be cautious as not to use more than 10% of the glutinous flour. This will result in a dry dough with a less distinct glutinous taste.
TIP 2: You can choose to mix the dough by hand or with a mixer. I’d go for a mixer every time as it’ll do the job to perfection in 2-3 minutes. Also, use kitchen gloves when working with the dough. These will leave your hands dry and clean the whole time – NO MORE sticky business!
TIP 3: Wrap the mixing bowl with cling film and let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes (NOT longer!) This will allow the flour to absorb moist from the hot water, leaven the dough and remove the starchy smell. However, do not let it rest for too long or you’ll end up with a dry dough as my Mom has recently experienced with regret.
TIP 4: Wash, pat dry and cut banana leaves into round circles with a cookie cutter or mouth of a regular drinking glass. Do this while the dough is resting to save time
TIP 5: DOUBLE or TRIPLE the dough and store these cakes in individual plastic wraps in the freezer for up to 6 months. That way, you can just thaw and steam them whenever the craving kicks in!
The lunar New Year, also known as Tet in Vietnam has just passed. Many lucky ones of us have had the chance to eat sticky rice (xoi) and various types of glutinous rice cakes in endless shapes, fillings and flavours in the last few weeks. For those who live abroad or away from family, let me share with you my all-time favourite glutinous rice cake that is steamed in banana leaf (Banh giay). With just rice flour, oil, salt, water, banana leaf, a steamer and 40-mins on hand, you’ll get to eat a smooth, chewy rice ball.
- ½ pack 225-230gr of glutinous rice flour
- 1-2 tbsp ~15gr regular rice flour
- 1 tbsp 15ml vegetable or mild olive oil
- Another ½ – 1 tsp 5-8ml oil to grease the leaf and hand (gloves)
- ½ tsp salt
- 200-220 ml hot water 80-90C, adding 1/3 at a time for better control
In a mixing bowl, mix the flour and salt together (if using stand mixer, use whisk attachment at low speed)
Add 1tbsp oil while the mixer is running. Mix for 20-30 second
Change into a dough hook, add water, one-third at a time, and mix at medium low speed. If using hand, use a spoon or spatula to mix until it’s no longer too hot.
Once the flour starts forming into dough, at another 1/3 of water then increase in tablespoon unit.
Mix for 2-3mins until the dough is smooth, elastic and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl.
You should be able to pull out part of the dough without having it sticking to your hand. If too wet, add some more glutinous rice flour – 1 tbsp at a time. If too dry, add water in teaspoon unit at a time
Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest on kitchen counter for about 30 minutes
In the meantime, wash, pat dry, and cut banana leaves into 8 round circles. Easiest to use a large cookie cutter or pancake ring, or even just the top of a glass
Grease them with some oil or on your kitchen gloves
Once resting time is up, divide the dough into 8 even portion
Shape into 8 rounds and place them on the banana leaves
Set the steamer to 15 minutes and steam away until the cakes reach a glossy cloudy white colour