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Monday, June 29, 2015

Bánh Canh Bột Lọc (Banh Canh Tapioca Noodles)

I have always been fond of preparing food using flour since high school. I was a newcomer to America during my high school years. American food was one of the big challenges for me to take on.  So I usually skipped lunch and after getting home from school, I ran straight into my kitchen, took out a bag of flour, and started preparing dough for bánh canh (tapioca/rice noodle soup), bánh bột lọc trần (shrimp tapioca dumplings), or bánh bao (pork steamed buns), depending on my craving.

When I was in college, I hardly cooked at all. Perhaps I depended on my roommates who were older and of course wiser to feed me. We only ate out when we had to study for tests and finals.  They tell me now that they would never have imagined I would turn into a homemaker and a food blogger. :-)

A couple weeks ago, while vacationing in Hawaii, we had enjoyed great food - surrounded by the swaying palms and cool ocean breeze - and yet I couldn't resist that urge for soul food. I craved for a bowl of bánh canh (tapioca noodle soup). But I had to wait until we returned to the mainland. There is nothing like the pleasure of simple, delicious, comfort food to warm the soul. As soon as we got home, my girls and I spent our time in the kitchen making a variety of food including bánh canh to satisfy our craving.

In previous posts, I shared with you a less chewy version of banh canh noodles recipe using the old school method. In this version, I used the mixer to mix the dough, and a potato ricer to press the noodle instead of cutting the dough into noodle strips by hand. I like both methods and use either depending on my mood.

The tapioca noodles in this version have less rice flour and therefore the texture is more chewy and that's just how my girls like it. Unlike the rice noodles, the tapioca noodle strings will stick together if they are not immerse in the hot liquid. Hence, I always add the noodles straight into the boiling broth pot.
RECIPE: Banh Canh Tapioca Noodles

 1 bag (15 oz) Tapioca Flour
2 tablespoons Rice Flour
1 1/4 cups - 1 1/2 cups boiling Hot-Water

a Potato Ricer or a Cookie Press, click here to purchase it
a Mixer
Making Dough

In a mixing bowl, combine tapioca and rice flour and mix well. 

While the water is boiling, measure 1 1/4 cups of boiling hot-water and pour into the flour bowl. Mix flour using a paddle attachment at medium speed until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined and turned into dough. Increase to high speed if needed.  The dough should be soft.  Dough that is relatively dry will be too thick and too difficult to press through the plate.  If the dough is dried, add a little bit more of boiling hot-water to soften the dough so it can be easy to press through the plate.  Add some extra flour if the dough is too tacky.  How much water all depends upon your brand of flour, how old it is, and the temperature and humidly of the room.

If you don't have a mixer, using your hands to knead the dough is acceptable.  My daughter is always up for kneading flour the old fashion way.  

Remove dough from the bowl and finish the kneading process by hand for a couple minutes to get a satin feel to it. The dough in the pictures below is a little bit thick and stiff, so I needed to add more boiling hot-water.

Pressing Noodles

Divide dough into 5 balls.  

Pour a little of cooking oil onto the dough balls.  The purpose of oil is to prevent dough from sticking to the potato ricer and it makes it easy to press the dough down.  

Add 1 ball of dough at a time (leave the other covered to prevent drying) into the potato ricer and press it down into the boiling broth pot.     

Repeat the process until finished.


Enjoy a bowl of bánh canh with your favorite broth and toppings. I usually serve my family this tapioca noodle soup with shrimps and crabs or fried fish patties and striped bass meat.

Ăn Ngon! Eat Well!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Xôi Cà Rốt - Carrot Sticky Rice

When dawn breaks, one can easily catch sight of xôi vendors on the city street corners in Vietnam. Xôi - served on a lush banana leaf - is a popular carb-rich Vietnamese fast-food breakfast. It's cheap, convenient, simple, delicious and more importantly filling. Due to its popularity, xôi is not only serve in the morning but throughout the day. 

Xôi or sweet sticky rice is mainly made from glutinous rice and can be served with several savory topping combo including beans, peanuts, fruits, coconut, sausage, pork ham and more. As a kid, one of my favorite xôi was black bean sticky rice topped with fresh shredded coconut and roasted crush peanut. It's a perfect blend of salt and sugar - the wonderful natural mild sweetness of the warm sticky rice mixed with  the soft and creamy cooked black bean wrapped in a lush banana leaf.

One of the xôi dishes that I created recently is xôi cà rốt - carrot sticky rice with a hint of coconut fragrance. It can be served with shredded young coconut along with sweet and salty roasted peanuts as the toppings. I also like to serve with such dishes  as roasted, grilled, or deep fried poultry.

The traditional and proper tools to cook sticky rice is soaking the glutinous rice for at least two hours or overnight until the grains have absorbed enough water. Excess water needs to be drained before steaming in the bamboo basket or steamer so that the grains can remain as a whole, soft but not mushy, sticking together in a lump. But if you're going to cook just a small batch of it, a rice cooker would work just fine. Once you  have decided on these alternative methods, I'm sure you'll be sticking to it for a while.
RECIPE: Xôi Cà Rốt


4 cups Glutinous Rice
2 cups Baby Carrots
3 1/2 cups Water
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Coconut Cream
2 tablespoons Sugar
for Topping
1/2 bag Shredded Coconut
6 tablespoons Sesame Seeds or Peanuts
4 tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt

Pureeing Carrots

In a blender, puree carrots and water until smooth. Use a strainer to separate the juice from carrots residue. Use a spoon to press the carrot residue down to extract all the juice. Discard the carrot residue. Make 3 1/2 cups. Add salt and stir well. Set aside.
Preparing Coconut Cream

In a small mixing bowl, combine coconut cream and sugar.  Mix well. Set aside.
Cooking Glutinous Rice

Rinse the sweet rice a few times until the water runs clear. Drain the water completely. Transfer rice and carrot juice to a rice cooker. Stir to combine all ingredients well. Set rice cooker to ‘Cook’. Allow to cook until the button switches over to ‘Keep Warm’. Add coconut cream mixture. Stir the rice. Cover and let it cook for another 10 -15 minutes to ensure the sweet rice is cooked evenly.
Steaming Shredded Coconut

Since the shredded coconut I bought is frozen so I like to steam it before serving. If using fresh shredded coconut which you can shred it straight from a mature coconut, steaming it is not necessary. 
Preparing Sesame Seeds

In a frying pan, roast sesame seeds or peanuts on a medium low heat until golden. Let it cool down. Place sesame seeds in a ziploc and slightly crush it to release the nutty aroma of sesame seeds. 

Combine roasted sesame seeds, sugar and salt and mix well. Set aside.


Place carrot sticky rice on a plate or a banana leaf. Sprinkle a generous amount of sesame seed mixture over it. Top with shredded coconut then sprinkle a little more of sesame seeds mixture.