My mom actually comes from a family of 9 children and never got past the 6th grade in Vietnam because in order to support the family, she had be in charge of selling our family’s meat and butcher stall a local market near our family’s house, Cho Nhat Tao near Nguyen Tri Phuong and Ba Hat street in District 10 of Saigon. The 6th grade! I think I was busy skateboarding, listening to 80’s new wave and playing nintendo at that age.
For those who have never been to Vietnam, some of the best foods are not in restaurants, but at food stalls in markets or make shift restaurants along the street where they make one or two items and make it with pride extremely well. It was here where she learned her cooking skills to cook for the entire family. She taught my uncle and aunt how to cook and now the both have restaurants in Hartford.
So when my family was over a few weeks ago, it was good to cook with her and learn a new dish because most of the time I’m always calling her about certain recipes or techniques. We decided to make banh bot loc which is another central Vietnamese specialty made of tapoica flour which becomes clear and translucent when cooked. While the shrimp and pork filling in these dumplings are similar to many Asian dumplings, what sets this apart is its characteristic chewiness. While it shouldn’t be jaw-numbing, the chewy and sticky consistency is a textural delight that we love.
There are two major variations of this dish. One is that each dumpling is wrapped and steamed in banana leaf. The other is to boil the dumplings sans banana leaf. The banana leaf certainly adds a nice aroma to it, but is certainly more time consuming and requires a totally different method of preparation compared to without banana leaf. Below is my mom’s quick and easy recipe for banh bot loc sans banana leaf.
Banh Bot Loc (Vietnamese Clear Shrimp/Pork Dumplings)
- 1 package of banh bot loc mix (we like the 4 Elephant brand–one bag makes about 20 dumplings)
- 1.5 cups of boiling water
- 1/4 lb shrimp cleaned and deviened (we like black tiger shrimp -you can use larger shrimp cut into 1/4 inch small pieces, or use whole small shrimps–some people like to keep the head and shell on)
- 2 tbs fish sauce
- 1 tbs black pepper
- 1/2 tbs sugar
- 1 tbs minced shallots
- 1/4 lb pork belly, cut into very small strips about 1/4 inch.
- 2 tbs cooking oil
- 1 ts annato seeds
Fried onion/Onion oil
- 1/4 cup chopped onions
- 8 tbs olive oil
Cold water bath
A bit of all purpose flour to prevent dough from sticking
Marinate the shrimp with fish sauce, shallots, sugar and pepper for about 1/2 hr.
Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil, when hot, add about 1 ts annato seeds. Continue heat to allow color to steep into oil. Once red, strain seeds. Fry the small peices of pork belly in annatto seed oil until cooked. It will be a nice red color. Drain off excess oil from the pork belly. (My mom does not add the pork belly and uses shrimp only as she thinks it’s too fatty)
Fry onions in oil until golden brown and drain. Save onion infused oil and set aside. (If you want to skip this step, just buy the pre fried onions and use plain olive oil)
Now you’re ready to make the dough. Making the dough the proper consistancy is the hardest part of this dish. Do not follow the instructions on the back of the package. It’s the directions for making banh bot loc in banana leaves. Add flour package to mixing bowl. Bring 1.5 cups of water to boil and add mixing bowl. Immediately begin stirring with spatula. After about 1 minute when the water is less hot, use your hands to knead and mix the flour well. The dough should be a bit pliable, sort of the consistency of playdough–add a bit more water if it is too dry.
Pinch all ball of dough about the size of a quarter and flatten to make into a small circle. Make sure the center of the dough is slightly thicker then the edges. Add a piece of shrimp and pork belly to the center and fold over, pinching the edges together. Use a fork to crimp the edges for a nice decorative touch. Keep hands dusted with a bit of flour for easier handlings of dough.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the banh bot loc and boil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The banh bot loc will float to the top. Strain and place in a cold water bath about 2-3 minutes. Drain well in colander and place in container. Now add about 3 tbs of onion infused oil and generous amounts of fried onions and gently mix well. This will keep the dumplings from sticking together.
Thanks mom for showing us this recipe!