After my siblings and I left home for college, my mother stopped making them on a regular basis. I missed them dearly and last month, I put in a request for a batch and a lesson. She obliged and the recipe and video below showcase her nifty Viet-American technique that involves banana leaf (traditional) with aluminum foil (New World). It’s totally simple to master, even for novices.
Traditionally, bánh giò are wrapped in many layers of banana leaf in order to produce the signature pyramid shape. The flavor is basically the same. Partially cooking the dough beforehand makes shaping bánh giò dumpling easier too. In American, many Vietnamese cooks blend cornstarch with rice flour to firm up the dough a bit and make it easier to manipulate. The modern use of canned chicken broth makes the dough tasty.
Bánh giò are named after the fact that these dumplings are made by professional giò makers who prepare Vietnamese charcuterie, particularly the everyday pork sausage called giò. The scraps of pork would be employed for these dumplings, which people anticipated eating fresh daily from the giò makers. “We’d wait until the late morning or early afternoon for fresh ones from the giò shops,” my mom recounts. Like many dumplings, bánh giò resulted from resourceful cooks looking to take a simple handful of ingredients to create a marvelous morsel. This is a classic dumpling in the Vietnamese repertoire.
Vietnamese Rice and Pork Pyramid Dumplings Recipe
My instructions veer slightly from my mother’s with regard to the size of aluminum foil sheets. As long as they’re slightly larger than the banana leaf, you’ll be fine. If you’ve never worked with banana leaf, review the primer on working with banana leaf before embarking on this recipe.
Makes 8 dumplings
1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
1/2 ground pork, fatty kind preferred, coarsely chopped to loosen
2 large dried wood ear mushrooms, reconstituted, trimmed, and finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon sugar
Generous 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
1/2 pound (2 cups less 2 tablespoons) regular rice flour, any Thai brand, such as Erawan
2 1/4 ounces (1/2 cup) cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 can full-sodium chicken broth plus enough water to make 4 1/2 cups, or 4 1/2 cups lightly salted homemade chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
squares banana leaf, each 9 inches wide, trimmed of any brown edges, washed,
8 pieces of aluminum foil, each 10 inches by 9 inches (length and width depends on your foil)
1. To make the filling, Heat the canola oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes, until the edges have started to brown. Add the pork, stirring and poking it to break it into small pieces. When most of the pork has turned color, about 1 minute, add the mushroom. Give things a big stir, then sprinkle in the salt, sugar, pepper, and fish sauce. Cook, for about 2 minutes, until the pork is just cooked through.
Give the cornstarch a stir, add it to the mixture, and cook for about 30 seconds to lightly bind. Remove from the heat, taste, and add any flavor adjustments for a filling that’s well seasoned flavor. Shoot for a savory flavor that’s slightly more intense than what you’re used to as the dough is lightly seasoned. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature. Makes about 1 1/4 cups. The filling can be made a day in advance and returned to room temperature before using.
2. For the dough, put the rice flour, cornstarch, and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and whisk in the chicken broth, water, and oil to form a smooth batter. Strain through a mesh strainer into a pot or large saucepan. Set aside for 10 minutes to bloom.
3. Pour the batter through the strainer. Set the pot over high heat. Continuously stir with a wooden spoon at a moderate speed for about 8 minutes, or until a partially cooked, very thick dough forms. Midway through, the mixture will have thickened slightly and resemble white sauce. When you see lumps forming around the spoon, lower the heat slightly and keep stirring. The lumps will eventually disappear. When the dough resembles stiff mashed potatoes, turn off the heat and stir for another 30 seconds to ensure that the dough is smooth. When done, the spoon should be able to stand upright in dough. Remove from the heat and set aside, uncovered, to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Use the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula to smooth out the dough in the pot, and then divide it into 8 even wedges, like a pie. This will help you eyeball the amount of dough for each dumpling.
5. To form each dumpling, set a piece of foil down on your work surface with one of the long sides closest to you. Center a piece of banana leaf, smoother side up, atop the foil. Brush a 3 1/2 inch circle of oil in the center of the banana leaf. Then use an ice cream scoop or 1/4-cup measuring cup to center half of a portion of dough atop the banana leaf. Dip two fingers in water and press then gently the dough into a 1/2-inch disk.
Put 2 1/2 tablespoons of filling in the center of the dough; try to keep the filling in a mound. Top with the remaining half portion of dough. It will look messy but don’t worry. Moistened a few fingers and gently press down to spread the dough out a bit and smooth things out. It should now look like a strange sandwich. Bring the edge of banana leaf that’s closest to you to the center, and then bring the edge at the top down to enclose the dumpling. The edges should overlap by 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Pull them in tighter to ensure good coverage.
Use your two hands to gently press down on the right and left edges to begin forming the pyramid shape. Bring the top and bottom edges of foil to the center and let them overlap, just like the banana leaf. Use your hands again to firmly press down on the sides to secure the square-shaped base. Finally, fold the open ends down and under the dumpling. Use scissors to trim any excessive foil poking out. Place the dumpling in a steamer tray (there’s no need to line the tray). Repeat with the remaining dumplings.
6. Steam the dumplings over boiling water for 40 to 45 minutes, or until dumplings have puffed up slightly a skewer inserted comes out more or less clean; some dough sticking to the skewer is okay. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before eating. Open up the foil and banana leaf and dive in with chopsticks or fork. The banana leaf is inedible.
leftovers, return to room temperature, and resteam for 10 to 15 minutes until
Refrigerate leftovers, return to room temperature, and resteam for 10 to 15 minutes until hot.