It’s Tet Time! Tet is the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. Every year, my entire extended family gathers at my grandparents house for food and distribution of the red envelopes with money. Instant. Cash. It’s one of my favorite family holidays because the food we have is extra special compared to the other holidays. There are boxes of candied ginger, coconut, and dried fruits, sticky rice filled with mung bean and pork, and sometimes moon cakes. For the party, my mom made a Vietnamese cake called bánh bò nướng. The literal translation is cow cake. I don’t really know why that is. According to Wikipedia, it’s because the texture resembles beef liver. I hope that doesn’t deter you guys from making it. Because it sure doesn’t taste like beef liver.
Nướng loosely means “grilled” because we bake it in the oven. Another way you can make this cake is to steam it (called bánh bò hấp). That technique doesn’t form a crispy layer, which is my favorite part. The coconut and pandan flavored dessert has a jelly-like texture that looks like honeycomb with a light and crispy crust. The jelly texture comes from the tapioca flour and the gazillion eggs that went into the cake. As a kid, I wasn’t a huge fan of it. I don’t know why because I think it’s super delicious now! It can be tricky to make, but my mom has some tricks up her sleeve that she shared with me.
Lots of eggs.
***Tip: When we baked the cake in a cast iron skillet, it turned out way better and fluffier.
Bánh Bò Nướng
Makes one big cake!
Ingredients: You can find these ingredients at your local Asian markets.
- 10 eggs
- 1 14-oz can of coconut cream
- 5 tsp baking powder (2 packets of Alsa brand baking powder found in Asian markets. My mom has always used this kind and haven’t tried regular baking powder. Alsa is single acting baking powder, the regular one is double acting. You may want to search out the Alsa.)
- 14 oz of tapioca flour (This is sold in pre-measured packages at Asian markets)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp of pandan extract
- 2 heaping cups of granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven at 370 degrees. Place a greased 10-inch round (or square) pan/cast iron skillet in the oven while you heat it up. This will make the crust really nice and crispy.
- Put all the ingredients into a bowl. With your hands, mix the batter together squeezing and breaking up all the tapioca flour clumps. DON’T use a hand or stand mixer. If you overmix the batter, the cake will fall flat. The batter will resemble the slime in old Nickelodeon shows.
- When the oven and pan is preheated, pour the batter through a fine mesh strainer directly into the heated pan (see picture above). You want the batter to fill up about half of the pan.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown on the top. The cake will puff up and form a pretty dome. Do NOT open the oven when checking on the cake or else it will flatten. Let the cake cool and rest before removing it from the pan.