Vegetarian/Vegan Bánh Bèo – Savory steamed rice cakes

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banh beo

I thought I’d try my hand at some Bánh Bèo since I picked up a bag of the flour mix recently. By accident–I thought I had grabbed banh xeo flour. These are a mini steamed rice cake. They are soft and light, made of rice and tapioca flour, and a bit of potato starch.

I love Vietnamese food, but I’m a self-taught (youtube-taught) American vegetarian who is probably brutalizing these wonderful traditional Vietnamese dishes in my quest for maximum flavor vegetarian food. But I’m learning a lot, and this is what I want to eat.

Bánh Bèo are traditionally filled with mung bean paste and dried shrimp, and of course served with fish sauce. Here’s youtube video of a more traditional method. And this blog here: Runaway Rice. Mung daal/dried mung beans are great to have knocking about your pantry. They are an important ingredient in Indian food (yummy daal, sambar, and idli), as well as Vietnamese food. I used mung bean, chopped egg, and fried garlic as our toppings this morning, whipped up an easy vegan ‘fish sauce’. By all means, if you are vegan, leave out the egg and replace with crumbled tempeh, mushroom (or whatever you fancy).

As you can see, I now have another use for my idli steamer!

Recipe below:

Ingredients
For approximately 36 steamed mini rice cakes
1 bag Bánh Bèo flour
4 cups warm water
1/2 tsp salt
Steamer (mini muffin tins or small little bowls placed in a stove-top steamer will work)

For fillings/toppings
1 cup dried mung beans/mung daal/dried split yellow lentils
2 cups water
salt and white pepper
olive oil
6 green onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
Other toppings such as chopped tempeh, mushrooms, or egg, pickled carrot or daikon

Quick sauce
1/2 cup light soy sauce (light in color, not light in sodium!)
1/4 cup water (or 1/8 water, 1/8 pineapple juice)
1 tsp agave syrup
1/2 tsp sliced chili and green onion

1) Mix the bag of Bánh Bèo flour with water and salt and place in fridge to rest for a bit. (some recipes say let the batter rest for two hours, but I let mine rest for about ten minutes and was fine.)
2) Cook the mung daal with water till it is a mushy paste. Not soupy. If you have an instantpot, this takes about ten minutes. On the stove, about 20. Add in a bit of salt and white pepper.
3) Make the sauce by mixing those ingredients together. Adjust proportions to your own taste. Should be a nice mix of salty sweet. I like chili but it’s not necessary if you don’t want the heat.
4) Heat up 3 tbs olive oil and gently fry garlic on LOW heat till just golden brown. Turn off heat and toss in the green onion while the oil is still warm. Set aside.
5) Fry mushrooms, egg, or other toppings in oil w salt and pepper. Set aside.
6) Now that your toppings are all ready, time to steam the rice cakes! Bring steamer to boil, then turn down to medium.
6) Brush idli trays, muffin tin, or little bowls with oil. The batter would have separated so whisk it back together. Do this every time you use it. Put 1 tbs of the batter in each holder, then place trays in the steamer and cover with lid.
7) Cook 4 minutes for 1 tbs-sized portion of batter.
8) After 4 minutes, remove trays. Wait a minute for them to cool down, and with oiled spoon or spatula, gently remove and place on tray or plate.
9) You can now steam more, assembly-line style. The batter will make dozens, and one serving size is about 6 per plate. Or fill a large platter and serve party style.
10) Place a bit of the mung bean paste in the center of each cake. Then sprinkle the rest of the toppings over all the cakes. The garlic/green onion oil will help these stay moist if you are not eating right away. The dipping sauce can be served on the side as well, or poured over the top.

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Stuffed arepas

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stuffed arepas close upstuffed arepasstuffed arepas-3

For cooking the thicker arepas that you can eat like a sandwich:

1) Follow the original recipe here, or watch this video here.

2) Pinch off golf ball-sized bits of moist dough and roll into smooth balls. Roll them out with a rolling pin, or place the dough balls between two sheets of oiled wax paper and press down with a cutting board. This is easier as you can do several at a time.

3) Heat up oil or butter in a frying pan and grill each side till crispy and golden brown. This is how you get the lovely crust of the arepa.

4) Heat up the oven to 350F and finish cooking in the oven for about 10 minutes.

5) Remove from oven, slice, and serve with whatever filling you fancy. Anything! Even just a pat of butter. Other fillings might be scrambled egg, black beans and avocado, cream cheese, mozzarella and tomato.

This morning we had little snack-size arepas with spinach and mozzarella, tomato and gruyere, sweet potato and salsa verde, and chipotle jackfruit with salsa verde.