Update: 20:12 | 19/06/2022
'Banh te’ or ‘banh rang bua’ is a specialty of Phung Cong Commune in the northern province of Hung Yen. Its taste is derived from the sweetness of meat and the crispiness of cat’s ear mixed with soft and flavourful rice powder.
According to experienced local rice-cake makers, you must have delicious ingredients to make delicious cakes, which is why the process of choosing the rice, meat and spices is crucial.
Hung Yen rice cakes enchant with rural flavour.
The best rice for making ‘banh te’ come from the the aromatic ‘tam xoan’ or ‘tam thom’ variety grown in Nam Dinh Province shortly after harvest. Rice that has been harvested too long ago is considered substandard as it will have an unpleasant smell.
Likewise, the ingredients for the stuffing - mixed lean and fat meat, cat’s ear, pepper and onion - must be of the best quality.
The process of making ‘banh te’ is quite simple; it is the grinding of rice powder that is complex. The rice, after being soaked in pure limewater for three to four hours, needs to be cleaned thoroughly with fresh water.
It is essential to grind the rice in a stone mortar instead of using ready-to-use rice powder as it would make the cake hard and not as soft as that made with rice powder ground with water.
After the grinding phase, the mixture is poured into a huge pot and heated with light fire to become condensed. The cook must use a large flat chopstick to stir the liquid constantly to prevent the powder at the bottom of the pot from overcooking. After the powder is half-cooked and has condensed, it is placed on a tray to cool off.
The stuffing is made with minced and boiled lean and fat meat mixed with sliced cat’s ear and slightly grilled onion. All the ingredients are minced to small pieces.
Before frying, pepper and high-quality fish sauce are added. The amount of sauce added to the mixture is also important as it will determine the taste of the cake.
The wrapping phase demands meticulousness and patience, and an experienced cake maker can wrap hundreds of cakes in a day. Phrynium leaf, about 40cm long and 15cm wide, is used to wrap the cake. After wrapping, a handful of rice powder is spread along the leaf. The stuffing is placed right in the middle and the cake is shaped like harrow teeth, or ‘rang bua’ in Vietnamese, after which the cake is named. The cake is then tied with nylon or bamboo string.
The final step is boiling or steaming the cake. Boiling is faster, taking some 10 minutes, but steaming helps to preserve the original taste of the cake.