Banh Khuc or Khuc Cake, one of Vietnam’s most traditional cake, is a steamed cake made of glutinous rice mixed with brayed cubweed leaves, filled with mung bean paste, pork, black peppers, and sprinkled with grains of cooked sticky rice. And it is very delicious!
Banh is glutinous rice cake (with mung bean and pork), Khuc is the brayed cubweed leaves.
Glutinous rice for making Banh Khuc must be chosen carefully to ensure that the cake will be soft and tender. It is usually soaked for 6 to 7 hours in advance. Then washed, drained, and add enough amount of sea salts.
Mung beans are also soaked for about 1- 2 hours to hatch washed before steaming. When they are still hot from the steam, take out and crush them out, then mix a little spice and sea salts.
Small pieces of pork are marinated them all with a little fish sauce and pepper. Then fried the pork until it is well cooked.
The Khuc Leaves, the important part of the cake, are washed, add them into the blender with little water and grind to become a powder consistency (traditional it is brayed). Do not put too much water on grounding, add Khuc leaves ground into with glutinous flour, knead them well. At this time, control the powder wet, if more water on Khuc leaves, add the more rice, add more flour if too wet. The mixture should not be too dry not too wet, just enough to be not sticky.
Make green beans are then pressed into quite thin to wrap outside the mung beans, and roll into ball as chicken egg with lean and fat meat mixed cut tiny cubes, sprinkle a bit more pepper to flavor up.
Finally, put the cakes on top and sprinkle with alternating sticky rice cakes to the cake does not stick together. Steamed cake for about 30 minutes is cooked, it is ok when check that the sticky rice is soft.
Vietnamese also use this dish in the morning as breakfast, it is also sold by vendors on the pavement, or in dessert restaurants.
Quan, the owner of a famous shop which has been selling Banh Khuc for 2 generations in Hanoi, said he grew up with his father’s heralding voice “here khuc cake is…” every early morning on streets to call people to buy the cake. Banh Khuc used to be carried in a bamboo basket by women or men walking along the streets in Hanoi, now most sellers, including Quan’s family, settle down at sidewalk outlets waiting for their clients coming on motorbikes.
As time goes by, it is harder to find cubweed leave to make Banh Khuc, as farmers don’t grow too much of this vegetable. Some outlet may use cabbage or water morning glory to make Banh Khuc, and the taste is not that good. But good shops hire locals in rural areas in Hanoi or in neighboring provinces to seek out the elusive cudweed, store the surplus from winter to use all year around.