Banh Bo Hap (Vietnamese Steamed Rice Cakes)

If you have ever had the pleasure of eating steamed rice cakes, then you know how addictive and delicious these little balls of heaven are. They are native to Vietnam, but they are starting to receive acclaim all around the world, and understandably so!

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After tasting these at a party, there was no going back, and I had to make them a part of my repertoire, and if you have ever had them, you understand the feeling. Thus, I went on the hunt for the perfect steamed rice cake recipe, then subsequently curated and perfected a recipe that I am excited to share with everyone!

So if you want homemade steamed rice cakes, this recipe will give you the airiest, most lightweight, and sweet rice cakes that will energize your taste buds. Natively known as “Banh Bo Hap,” steamed rice cakes or “cow cakes” are quintessential Vietnamese foods that people adore. The lightweight cakes can serve as a starter before supper or something to nibble on throughout the day. 

Now, you can get pre-cooked steamed rice cakes n the market, but where is the fun in that? After all, homemade is always healthy, and you get to show off in front of your friends and make them whenever you crave cow cakes. 

In this article, we came up with the perfect recipe for homemade steamed rice cakes that you would love to try.

Origin of Steamed Rice Cakes 

Recently, steamed rice cakes have gained a lot of popularity in the market as they serve as the perfect low-carb non-fattening snack. It is just a puff of rice formed together in a muffin pan. The crunchy low, calorie rice cake is a healthy snack, especially for people looking to maintain a healthy weight but still enjoy some tasty treats. 

Rice cakes have existed in many different forms in various countries. However, they are prevalent in Japan and the Philippines. In the Philippines, rice cakes, or “puto,” are served with cheese, ube, or salted egg to add more taste to the rice flour. 

Moreover, the Chinese also celebrate New Year’s Eve with steamed rice cakes made from rice flour, sometimes mixed with sugar, milk, or other delicious flavors. Traditionally, a rice cake only has two staple ingredients: rice and water. However, other elements, such as salt or different flavors, are added later as per your taste. 

Traditional Fermented Rice Batter vs. Alternative Rice Flour 

Rice flour

Traditionally, rice cakes or puto are essentially fermented sweet rice flour batter. However, fermenting rice in a gallon of water is a tiring task. Glutinous rice, yeast mixture, and sugar are other ingredients used in fermenting rice.

Moreover, it is hard to find fermented rice batter in the market these days. So I decided to look for another perfect alternative to make steamed rice cakes—the solution; is rice flour.

 Even though I wanted to learn the traditional technique, using rice flour is much easier and quicker. Another plus point is that the rice flour tastes the same as the steamed rice cake.

However, using rice flour can sometimes be a little tricky. Rice flour tends to turn a little lumpy. Hence, to avoid this, evenly sift the rice flour and baking powder all over the wet ingredients batter. This way, lumps will not form in the mixture. 

Cooking Tips for Steamed Rice Cakes

  • Always use fresh and active dry yeast. So begin by mixing yeast with warm water to get it going. Also, it is important to note that if the yeast is not foamy after sitting in the warm water for at least ten minutes, the yeast has gone bad. 
  • Rice flour is preferred over glutinous rice flour. Many people need to learn the difference between rice flour and glutinous rice flour, and they tend to use either of them as a substitute for the other. The rice cakes tend to get sticky and heavy if you use glutinous rice flour. Consequently, I use rice flour to keep the rice cakes lightweight and airy. 
  • Use gel or liquid food coloring. If you want to add food colors, always use gel or liquid so it can even spread across the rice flour batter. Make sure to mix it thoroughly so there are no traces of color streaks or blotches of food coloring in the batter. 
  • If you don’t sift the dry ingredients evenly over the wet ingredients, the rice flour gets lumpy and hard. Additionally, your steamed rice cake will be much puffier and lighter without lumps. 
  • I use silicon mini muffin molds for the rice cake. However, you can also use a muffin pan as well. I prefer using a silicon muffin pan or mold because it is easier to steam and remove the steamed cake from them. Also, use two batches of the round cake pan. While one batch cools down, you can prepare the second rice cake batch in the other cake pan. 
  • Use some coconut milk to enhance the flavor of the steamed rice cakes. I prefer to use coconut milk with water and add it to the rice cakes. However, ensure that you do not use a rice flavor that clashes with the flavor of the coconut milk, or else the taste will be very unpleasant.
  • When prepping up the steamer, ensure you fill it with enough water. Steam the rice cakes over medium heat so they do not dry out too quickly or come out raw. 

How to Store Steamed Rice Cakes

It is best to eat rice cakes when they are fresh and airy. However, you can keep them in an airtight container to prevent moisture from getting in. Do not leave the container out!

Steamed rice cakes stored under a plastic tarp

Freeze them in an airtight container for a few days to enjoy the freshness of the rice cakes. To defrost the sweet rice cakes, soak them in warm water for three minutes. Make sure that the water is not boiling but lukewarm. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How long should you steam the rice cakes?

I found out that steaming rice cakes for eight minutes is the perfect duration. Your batter will get puffy and airy over medium heat, and your puto will not turn too stiff or stay too soft. 

  1. Is steamed rice cake a pastry?

No, because a pastry is baked in an oven. In comparison, Banh Bo Hap is a mini rice cake made in a steamer. 

  1. Is Vietnamese steamed rice cake a dessert? 

Cow Cakes or Banh Bo Hap are sweet dishes made with tapioca starch and coconut milk. However, you can use it as a savory dish by using various toppings on the rice cakes. 

  1. What goes with Vietnamese steamed rice cakes?

Since rice cakes are slightly sweet, you can pair them with savory dishes. Some toppings include cheese, salty egg, cream cheese, or tuna, and these toppings will amplify the flavor of your steamed rice cake.

Other than that, you can also serve the ban bo hap with soy sauce, vinegar, or chili oil. For a savory touch, you can stir-fry the rice cakes as well. 

Steamed rice cakes served on a bowl

BÁNH BÒ HẤP (VIETNAMESE STEAMED RICE CAKE)

This easy-to-follow steamed rice cake recipe will present you with light and airy Vietnamese steamed rice cakes. And, if you use rice flour and food colorings, the recipe will only take more or less forty minutes of your time, and make 24 small rice cakes.
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Vietnamese
Servings 24 small cakes
Calories 45 kcal

Equipment

  • A Bamboo Steamer
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Cake Pan

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Egg White
  • A Half Cup of Water
  • A Half Cup of Coconut Milk
  • 4 tsp of Tapioca Starch
  • Half a tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup of Rice Flour
  • 2 tsp of Baking Powder
  • Half a Cup of White Sugar
  • 2 tsp of Vegetable Oil
  • Cheese Cut Into Slices optional
  • Tuna optional

Instructions
 

  • First of all, preheat your bamboo steamer on medium heat over the stove
  • Take a large mixing bowl, and whisk the egg whites, coconut milk, tapioca starch, and vanilla extract.
  • Take half a cup of water in another saucepan and let it boil. When it comes to a boil, turn off the stove and let it cool down.
  • Then, slowly pour the warm water into the mixture. Mix all the ingredients until the mixture is smooth.
  • Then, sift the rice flour and baking powder over the wet ingredients. Make sure to evenly sift the dry ingredients over the wet batter to keep the mixture smooth. Use a whisk to mix the ingredients properly.
  • After that, add the white sugar and mix the batter well.
  • Always use hot water to mix the rice flour with the rest of the ingredients. Using warm water is crucial because it slightly cooks the dough and makes it more stretchy. This way, you can mold the dough however you want without any stiffness.
  • Before kneading the dough, let it cool for 2-3 minutes. Knead the dough to get a smooth finish without any lumps. Most importantly, ensure that the dough is soft and not dry.
  • Let the batter rest for a while.
  • Lately, scoop out the mixture of rice cakes and put it into the muffin molds of silicone. Wait to fill the batter up till the top, or it will overflow while steaming.
  • Lightly grease the Vietnamese steamed rice cakes.
  • Place the cake pan into the steamer, and cover the bamboo steamer with a lid.
  • Steam the rice cakes for about eight minutes, and remove the lid to check the cow cakes. You can use a toothpick or a fork to check whether the rice cakes are ready.
  • Suppose you want to add a topping, such as cheese. Then cut the cheese into small squares and place it over the Banh Bo Hap. Cover the lid again and let it rest for a minute so the cheese melts over the top of the rice cakes.
  • Take out the hot pan from the steamer and place it on the counter. Let the batter rest for a while until it cools down.
  • Remove it from the muffin mold, and immediately serve hot and fresh Vietnamese steamed rice cakes.

Some Extra Instructions

  • Steamed rice cakes are to be eaten fresh out of the steamer if you truly want to savor the flavor of the banh bo hap. You can store them in the refrigerator for a few days, but it is best to eat them fresh.
  • Do not use a glass lid to cover your steamer, as condensation tends to develop quickly over the glass lid. Consequently, the few drops of water can fall onto the banh bo hap and moisten it. However, if you do not have any other option, take a towel and place it under the glass lid to prevent the water from getting into the banh bo hap.

Nutrition

Calories: 45kcalCarbohydrates: 8.6g
Keyword banh bo hap, vietnamese steamed rice cakes
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Wrap Up

Treat yourself to these Vietnamese steamed rice cakes anytime during the day. They are tasty to eat and fun to make. Just follow the instructions right, and you are all set. Besides, they do not mess with your diet. So, try them out and let us know what you think.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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