White rice is a staple food and also an essential ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. Simple yet versatile, white rice can be ground into flour to make many different types of rice cakes, among which bánh giò stands out for its unique shape and flavor.
Bánh giò, a Hanoi specialty, is deemed a filling breakfast choice or a tasty evening treat. To foreigners, the cake is known as Vietnamese rice pyramid dumplings for its pyramid shape formed by wrapping banana leaves. Fresh green banana leaves are first carefully chosen, rinsed, and dried before being curved into such a pyramid-shaped mold. It is then respectively filled with well-mixed rice batter and a mixture of sliced wood ear mushroom, lean minced pork, and finely chopped shallots, which has previously been seasoned with pepper, salt, and fish sauce. Another layer of rice batter is added on top of the mold. At last, it is skillfully wrapped to ensure the cake is well cooked without water getting in while boiling.
Bánh giò can be found in almost all residential areas and markets in Hanoi. It is common to see the image of bánh giò inside a small white styrofoam box that is used to keep the dish warm. What can be better than rubbing your hands and enjoying bánh giò at a small corner of Hanoi while the bitter wind is blowing outside on winter days? The warmth and the subtle fragrance of rice mingling with banana leaves that exude from the cake are simply irresistible. Bánh giò is at its best when served hot, and since the cake filling is already well seasoned, it can be enjoyed without any toppings. However, pickled cucumber, giò lụa (pork roll), and a few drops of chili sauce sometimes can be added for a more pungent taste.
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If you haven’t had plan to travel in Hanoi yet, follow these instructions to make yourself a delicious portion of Bánh giò at home:
Ingredients: Woodear mushroom (abt 2 cups), 500g minced pork (or chicken), 1 tablespoon minced shallot, 1 diced onion, 1 tablespoon cooking oil, salt, sugar, pepper, chicken stock (1tsp each), 2 cup white rice flour, 1 cups tapioca/corn starch, 6 cups chicken/pork broth (at room temperature)