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Banh Chung
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Recipe courtesy of Diep Tran for Food Network Kitchen

Bánh Chưng

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  • Level: Advanced
  • Total: 12 hr (includes soaking time)
  • Active: 2 hr 30 min
  • Yield: 6 bánh chưng
For the Vietnamese diaspora, glutinous rice dumplings are the heart of Tết (Lunar New Year) celebrations. People from southern Vietnam know these rice dumplings as banh tét and shape them into cylinders; in the north, the cakes take on a rectangular shape and are called bánh chưng. Bánh chưng fillings vary from family to family, but the three most common ingredients are pork belly, mung beans and sweet rice--which meld together to create a delicious, tender dumpling. Assembling these banana-wrapped parcels is a multi-step process that, like many holiday foods, takes a little bit of advance preparation and time. But that’s all the more reason to gather family and friends into the kitchen to make them together. This recipe makes six bánh chưng, but feel free to double (or quadruple) the quantity so you’ll have more than enough to keep for yourself, with plenty to gift all around.



Special equipment:
kitchen twine; a 6-quart Instant Pot® multi-cooker, optional; a 3.75-by-3.75-by-2-inch bánh chưng mold; a steamer lined with cheesecloth
  1. Day 1: Soak the sweet rice and mung beans. Marinate the pork belly. Saute the shallots.
  2. Put the sweet rice in a large mixing bowl and add 4 quarts of water. Soak, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. Put the mung beans in a mixing bowl and add 1 quart of water. Soak, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Cut the pork belly into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then cut the slices into 2-inch segments. Combine the sliced pork, fish sauce and 2 teaspoons of the black pepper in a mixing bowl. Toss to coat the pork in the marinade. Cover the pork and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. Add the coconut oil to a saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots to the oil. Saute the shallots, stirring continuously, until aromatic and softened, 3 to 6 minutes. Transfer the shallots to a mixing bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper on the shallots and stir to combine. Cover the shallots and refrigerate until it’s time to wrap the bánh chưng.
  6. Day 2: Steam the mung beans. Prepare the banana leaves. Build and fill the banana leaf box. Cook the bánh chưng.
  7. To steam the mung beans: Drain the mung beans in a colander. Add them back to the bowl, cover with clean water, rinse and drain again. Repeat once more.
  8. Transfer the beans to a steamer lined with cheesecloth. Steam the beans over medium-high heat until tender, at least 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, test the doneness of the beans by removing a single bean and pressing it between your fingers. If the bean mashes easily, it’s done. If not, continue steaming until done.
  9. Transfer the beans to a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper onto the hot beans. Stir to equally disburse the salt and pepper. Cover the beans and refrigerate until it’s time to assemble the bánh chưng.
  10. Drain the sweet rice in a colander. Add it back to the bowl, cover with clean water, rinse and drain again. Repeat once more. Set aside to drain further.
  11. To prepare the banana leaves: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Wash the banana leaves. Along the grain, cut the banana leaves into 4-inch-wide strips. Working in batches, quickly dunk the banana strips into the boiling water, then immediately plunge them into the ice water. Remove the strips from the water, dry and set them aside.
  12. To build a banana leaf box: Make a fold 4 inches into a banana strip. Place the strip inside a 3.75-by-3.75-by-2-inch bánh chưng mold (see Cook's Note), with the folded edge flush against the left wall of the mold. Make a corresponding fold that lays flush against the right wall of the mold. Fold another banana strip 4 inches into the strip. Place the fold inside the mold, with the folded edge flushed against the top wall of the mold. Make a corresponding fold that lays flush against the bottom wall of the mold. Repeat with 4 more banana strips, alternating the direction of the banana strips. Insert 2 leaves along the interior perimeter of the mold. The resulting banana leaf box is ready for filling.
  13. To add the bánh chưng filling: Spoon 1 cup of the rice into the box. Tamp the rice down to create a level bottom and build the rice up the sides of the box. Place 2 slices of the pork belly in the center of the box, avoiding the sides of the box. Add 2 tablespoons of the mung beans and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the shallots to the center of the box, again avoiding the sides of the box. Add 1/3 cup of the rice to the box and tamp the rice down so that it’s level with the lip of the box. Fold down the leaves to enclose the box. Trim off any overhang.
  14. Lay a 3-foot-long piece of kitchen twine across the top of the box. Carefully flip the box. Remove the mold. Wrap the twine around the box to bind the leaves into a tight parcel, like you would a birthday present. Set the bánh chưng aside and repeat with the remaining banana strips, filling and twine. The bánh chưng can now be pressure cooked or steamed on the stovetop.
  15. To pressure cook the bánh chưng: Place the bánh chưng parcels in a 6-quart Instant Pot® and add water to cover them by 1 inch. Follow the manufacturer's guide for locking the lid and preparing to cook. Set to pressure cook on high for 45 minutes (see Cook's Note). 
  16. After the pressure-cook cycle is complete, follow the manufacturer's guide for quick release and wait until the quick-release cycle is complete. Being careful of any remaining steam, unlock and remove the lid.
  17. Or to cook the bánh chưng on the stovetop: Place a wire rack inside a tall stockpot with a tight-fitting lid. Place the bánh chưng in the pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the bánh chưng by 12 inches. Bring the water to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 8 hours.
  18. Transfer the bánh chưng to a baking sheet. If not serving immediately, rest the bánh chưng until they’re cool enough to handle. Wipe down the bánh chưng and store in the refrigerator. To reheat, steam the bánh chưng until warmed through, 10 to 15 minutes.

Cook’s Note

Bánh chưng molds are typically handmade structures, made by joining together 4 pieces of wood to create a square frame. Alternatively, you can make molds out of an empty 1/2-gallon milk carton. Simply cut off the bottom and gabled top of the carton. Flatten the body of the carton and cut it into 2-inch segments which will act as makeshift bánh chưng molds. When you’re done making bánh chưng, simply recycle the carton! Settings may vary on your Instant Pot® depending on the model. Please refer to the manufacturer's guide.