Vietnamese Pyramid Dumplings (Banh Gio)
Vietnamese Pyramid Dumpling (Banh Gio) is very common breakfast in Northern Vietnam. Banh Gio directly translates to “pork cake” which unfortunately doesn’t sound too appetizing but don’t let the name fool you. It is a tasty pyramid-shaped rice dumpling filled with ground pork, onions, minced Woodear mushroom and sometimes quail eggs for a heartier version. Everything is wrapped together in a banana leaf then steamed. The banana leaf wrapper imparts a special tea-like aroma and the signature yet subtle green color once steamed.
The batter for Banh Gio is a mixture of rice flour, tapioca starch (corn starch is sometimes used) and a flavorful pork stock. How good a Banh Gio depends on the pork stock. A tasty pork stock will guarantee a tasty Banh Gio. Click here for a delicious homemade pork stock that’s goes great with Banh Gio.
The flour mixture is par-cooked on the stove so it gets thick to be easily spread on the banana leave. Get your arms ready because par-cooking the flour mixture requires a bit of stirring. If you don’t stir it enough and let it overcook because you rather browse Reddit instead of watching the pot, then the batter will clump up as in my picture below. No bueno. Do what I say, not what I do.
Some people enjoy Banh Gio plain. Others, like myself, enjoy them with a sweet and sour chili dipping sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham).
These rice dumplings require a certain level of skill to fill, shape and fold, a skill I don’t have and simply don’t have the time for. The next time I’m making Banh Gio, I’m going to forget the banana leaves altogether and use ramekins instead. If you don’t have ramekins or would like more of a to-go version, use parchment paper, which is a lot easier to find and handle.
Banana leaves are used in Vietnam because they are plentiful and cheap. It’s just not the case here in the States. The banana leaves I was finally able to find weren’t so fresh and young either. They were older leaves that ripped apart easily, even after blanching them in hot water to make them more pliable. In short, it was not fun.
Vietnamese Pyramid Dumplings (Banh Gio)
- 1 bag Banh Gio flour mix
- 6 cups homemade pork stock
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1/2 tablespoon granulated white sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon chicken, mushroom or pork stock powder
- 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 2 pinches ground black pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 small yellow onion (7 oz; peel and dice)
- 2 cloves garlic (peel and mince)
- 1/3 cup minced fresh Woodear mushrooms
- 2 tablespoon fried shallots (optional)
- 8 quail eggs (hard-boiled and peeled)
- 8 12"x12" banana leaves (blanch each sheet in boiling water for a few seconds to make it pliable)
- Saran wrap
- Sweet and spicy chili dipping sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham)
- In a medium-size pot, mix together Banh Gio flour mix and pork stock until completely dissolved. Place the pot on the stove and cook on medium-high while constantly stirring. When flour starts to cook, the mixture will thicken. Lower heat and continue to stir until you get the consistency of creamy mashed potatoes. If mixture starts to clump, stir more vigorously until it smoothes out. Turn off heat, cover pot and set aside.
- To make the filling, marinate ground pork with sugar, stock powder, oyster sauce and black pepper for at least 15 minutes. Add oil to a large skillet and heat on medium high. Once oil warms up,add onions and sautee until limp. Then add garlic and minced Woodear mushroom. Saute together for 2-3 minutes. If using fried shallots, add and mix until combined.
- To make the dumpling, follow the diagram below to fold the banana leaf into a pyramid/cone. The rice batter will be sticky. To make handling easier, dip a spoon in vegetable oil before proceeding. To the banana leaf, add a thin layer (about 2-3 tablespoons) of rice batter. Use the greased spoon to make a well in the rice batter. Add 2-3 tablespoons of filling to the well. Lastly, cover filling with another layer of rice batter, smoothing the layer out with the greased spoon.
- To wrap the dumpling, fold over the one of the non-pointy sides of the banana leaf. Then working clockwise, fold over the other sides of the banana leaf. Tuck in the last side of the banana leaf into any of the folds to hold the banana leaf wrapper in place. Wrap the completed dumpling in Saran wrap to prevent leakage.
- Place the assembled dumplings in a steamer and steam for 20 minutes. Enjoy the dumpling plain or have it with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham).