There’s so many different “banh” in Vietnamese cuisine (banh day and banh bot loc to name a few) that even we get confused. But it’s reflection of not only the diversity of the cuisine, but of the culture and country itself, with each region seemingly having it’s own special banh to call it’s own.
Banh it tran is a sticky rice dumpling originating in the central provinces of Vietnam. There are two major types of banh it–banh it tran is a savory rice dumpling filled with mung beans, pork, and shrimp and banh it la gai, a pyramidal shaped sweet dark green rice dumpling flavored by la gai (ramie leaf) and filled with sweetened mung bean and coconut and wrapped in banana leaves. Tran can mean bare/naked…so perhaps since banh it tran isn’t wrapped in banana leaves, that’s where it got it’s name?
Banh it tran is often served at family celebrations in Vietnam, but one often find it as street food as well. In America, you often find these wrapped in styrofoam trays in Vietnamese delis, but it’s also really simple to make your own.
Banh It Tran (Sticky Rice Dumplings with Shrimp and Pork)
- 16 oz bag of glutinous rice powder
- 1 2/3 cups water
- 1 ts salt
- 1/2 lb small to medium shrimp, cleaned, deshelled and deviened cut into small 1/4-1/2 inch pieces
- 1/2 lb pork belly cut into small 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces (you can substitute leaner cuts if you like)
- 2 ts fish sauce
- 2 ts sugar
- 2 ts pepper
- 1 ts dark soy sauce
- 1 cup split mung beans, soaked in water for at least 4 hrs but best overnight
- banana leaf or aluminum foil, cut into small 3-4 inch squares
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- cooking oil
- fried shallots
- nuoc mam cham and pickled carrots and daikon
Marinate the shrimp with 1 ts fish sauce, sugar, pepper and set aside for about 20 mins. Marinate the pork with 1 ts fish sauce, sugar, pepper, and dark soy sauce also for about the same time. In a large pan at medium high heat, saute the pork belly first. No oil is needed here as there’s plenty of fat in the belly. When it’s about 1/2 way done, add the shrimp. Saute until both are done and set aside.
You either steam or boil the mung beans. We prefer steaming it since we don’t like to stand in front of a pot and stirring (use only enough water just to cover the beans). Steam mung beans until you can easily smash the grain with your fingers. The longer you soak in water, the quicker it will steam–if overnight about 15 minutes. When done, transfer to bowl or mortar and lightly smash.
Now in mixing bowl, incorporate the crushed mung beans, shrimp and pork together. Allow to cool and form small balls, about quarter size and set aside.
In mixing bowl, combine glutinous rice flour with salt and mix. Add the water, and work it into a pliable play dough like texture. Be patient–it’ll come together!
Heat about 3 tbs of cooking oil and add scallions. Turn off heat and set aside.
Pinch off dough and roll into golf ball size and flatten into a disk. Add the ball of filling in the center and fold over the edges and roll gently, sealing it. You can keep a small bowl of water on hand and using your wet fingers seal off any cracks.
Lightly brush a bit of cooking oil on the banana leaves/foil and place the banh it tran on. Do not overcrowd the steamer and steam for about 8 minutes, until dough is opaque. Do not over steam as it will be flat. Remove and place in cold water bath to stop the cooking and remove the foil/banana leaf. Drain in colander and then place bowl. Add about 1 tbs of scallion oil or so and work it around so that the banh it tran do not stick together.