If I could choose one dish to eat for the rest of my life, it would be banh bot loc.
Banh bot loc is tapioca starch and caramelized pork & shrimp, traditionally folded into a banana leaf and steamed, taking in all of that aroma.
Traditionally made, these chewy, glutinous glories are a result of hours of labour in the kitchen (I counted 6 hours the last time I helped my mom). But instead, I went the speedier route, and made these in 30 minutes. She would likely shake her head at my approach, but no one has time to spend more than two hours in the kitchen these days.
The hack? A runnier batter, and a silicone mold.
Google Banh Bot Loc, and they won’t resemble a puddle of liquid sitting in a silicone mold at all – but trust me, although it is easier on the bite than the real thing, the taste is all there. The crunch of the shrimp shell, caramelized bites of pork belly & green onion saute. I like to call these Vietnamese ravioli – in the sense that they’re filled with a rich filling, and drenched in sauce.
I credit the Vietnamese Cooking Group on Facebook for this hack.
Why this recipe works:
- Get the best of both worlds, and lay a small square of banana leaf to the base of the mold before filling. All of the aromatic banana leaf infused into banh bot loc in a fraction of the time. I haven’t yet tried this, but I can’t see how it won’t work!
- Annatto is best for that iconic fragrant orange hue. Otherwise, to just add colour, go with paprika.
- There’s less mess! Use a squeeze bottle to pour in the batter for minimum spillage. The batter is as runny as liquid!
- Create compact delicious goodness. Press down filling as much as possible as the tapioca batter will reduce when cooked.
- You can adjust the chewiness to your preference. Add batter depending on your preferred thickness and chew (just remember, the thicker the batter, the longer the steam time).
- The green onion oil topping is not necessary, but a very nice touch. And don’t skip the MSG please. Once you try it, you won’t want this dish without it!
Cooking time: 45+ minutes (depending on cooking quantity)
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Pork & Shrimp Filling
1 tbsp Neutral Oil
1 tsp Brown Sugar
200g Shrimp (skin on or off), cut to 1 cm pieces
200g Pork Belly, cut to 0.5cm strips
1 tbsp Shallot, minced finely
1 tbsp Garlic, minced finely
2 tsp Fish Sauce
1 tsp Annatto oil or paprika (for colour & aroma)
2 Green Scallions, sliced
½ tsp Black Pepper
2 cups Tapioca Starch
1½ cups Water
1 tsp Chicken Bouillon Powder
2 tsp Neutral Oil
¼ tsp Fine Salt
2 Green Onion, sliced
½ tsp MSG
¼ tsp Fine Salt
2 tbsp Neutral Oil
Make: Pork & Shrimp Filling
- Add cooking oil to skillet and caramelize sugar on medium high. Regularly stir to ensure that it does not burn.
- As soon as sugar caramelizes, add shrimp & pork belly, then mix until coated in sugar.
- Add garlic, shallots, fish sauce, annatto oil/paprika, black pepper and scallions. Saute until cooked, leave on side.
Make: Tapioca Batter
- To a mixing bowl, combine tapioca starch, salt, and chicken bouillon powder.
- Add oil to the mixing bowl. Add water in several increments.
- Continually stir to combine until no clumps are visible.
Make: Green Onion Oil Topping
- Add chopped green onion, MSG & salt into a bowl (that can withstand hot oil).
- Heat up oil in pan on medium-high until shimmering.
- Pour hot oil directly into bowl, and mix.
- Add pork & shrimp filling to mold of choice first, then pour in batter (I filled my molds up 3/5).
- Steam for 8 minutes covered until translucent. This timing will depend on the thickness of batter, and type of mold.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes. Pop out of mold and enjoy with your favourite fish sauce recipe!