Most people would never realize that I am half-Vietnamese, and when I cook, people would gather that I am from European heritage. Growing up we had a lot of Vietnamese food on special occasions but normal American food during the week. As I grew up and learned to cook, I wanted to cook French food. To this day I will still cook food with an European twist. I never felt the need to cook Vietnamese food since my mom does such a great job and she makes enough to feed the entire Silicon Valley.
Through Twitter, I ran into a young Vietnamese couple that have a blog devoted to authentic Vietnamese cooking. It really inspired me to start cooking more Vietnamese food since I do like to eat it. At the same time I also want to teach my daughter different styles of cooking. My daughter is Vietnamese, El Salvadoran, Mexican, and Caucasian. She can learn so much of her ethnic background through the different styles of cooking.
The first recipe that we tried is relatively easy, but it does require patience. Here is the recipe from Hong and Kim: http://ravenouscouple.blogspot.com/2009/10/banh-it-tran-recipe-sticky-rice.html You can follow them on Facebook or on Twitter (@ravenouscouple)
I really enjoyed making these dumplings and I plan to make them again for future dinner parties and for lunches during the week.
- The dough is critical. Don’t add too much water because you will think it’s not coming together, but it does.
- Keep your hands well floured to prevent the dough to sticking to your hands. I used latex gloves and rubbed my hands together with flour.
- Use a small spoon to place the filling in the bun. You will need both hands to wrap the dough around the filling and you don’t want any of the filling on the outside.
- After the wrapping the dumpling around the filling, I coated the dumpling with a little flour and rolled them in my hand to get a consistent roundness.
- Use pork belly, jowl(cheek), or shoulder for the pork. Leaner cuts may dry out.
- Do not over marinate the meat or shrimp. A little goes a long way and you can easily blow out the ingredients if you use too much.
If you want your children to help, the dough process is a great place for them. The dough is extremely pliable and kids can get crazy with it without fear of getting sick. No eggs or ingredients that would be subject to salmonella. To be honest, the package of flour is so cheap, buy an extra package and mix in the water. Split it evenly among the kids and let them play away with the play-do like flour. For Alessandra, she helped me mix the dough and make one dumpling. Next time, I will have her make a couple of dumplings. Perfection is not a requirement as long as she enjoys the process and is proud of what she does.
For the sauce, it’s 1 part soy sauce, 1 part rice vinegar, and a dash of sesame oil. You can mix in a little green onion, or if you want some heat, thinly slice a small seeded Serrano chile.
It felt really good to cook Vietnamese and I plan to do more cooking this weekend. It’s very inexpensive to cook, it’s enjoyable, and it allows my daughter and I to spend time together while learning about an ethnic dish.