Bánh nậm is often called the Vietnamese tamale and it’s similarities to the Latin American treat are remarkable. Both are rectangular dumplings filled with meat and then wrapped and steamed. Tamales dumplings are typically corn flour but can also be rice flour just like bánh nậm, Tamales are often wrapped in corn husks but the more south you go towards central America, the more frequent banana leaves are used, just like bánh nậm. So its remarkable that half way around the world, two different cultures can come up with a dish that is so similar. In Hue and central Vietnam, bánh nậm is typically filled with minced pork and shrimp and these parcels can be eaten as a snack on it’s own or as a dish doused in some nuoc cham.
We’ve eaten it many times but suprisingly we haven’t made it ourselves. The process is very similar to banh gio, but for this recipe, we enlisted instagrammer Kris @rasianbran who makes some of the best looking bánh nậm on the gram and she happily shared her recipe.
The recipe itself is easy but does take some planning and procuring some special ingredients, namely banana leaves which are commonly found in the frozen section of well stocked Asian or Latino markets.
- 2 cups rice flour
- 1/4 cup tapioca flour
- 2 ts salt
- 2 tbsp oil neutral cooking oil
- 6 cups water
- 1 lb pork finely ground
- 1 lb shrimp peeled and deveined, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup wood ear mushroom soaked and finely chopped
- 1/2 ts black pepper
- 1/2 ts salt
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1 ts oyster sauce
- 2 tbs annatto seed oil or cooking oil if not available
- 2 shallots medium, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic cloves chopped
- 2 green onion stalks, chopped
- 1 package banana leaf thawed if frozen, cut into roughly rectangles 6 x 10 inches
- Bring large pot of water to boil, blanch the banana leaves for 30 seconds. Drain and wipe dry. Cover and set aside.
- Add all the ingredients into a large pot and allow to mix and set for 30 minutes. Proceed to make the filling. When filling is done, cook the batter under high heat, constantly stirring. When it begins to thicken, reduce the heat to medium/low and continue to stir until it becomes a thick paste (mashed potato consistency).
- Combine everything except for the annatto oil, garlic and onions and mix well and set aside. In a large pan, heat the annatto see oil and when hot, add the garlic and shallots, then green onion. Fry until fragrant. Add the filling mixture and cook until pork and shrimp are done. Allow to cool and set aside.
Assembly and Cook
- Using silicone spatula place about 1 tbsp of batter onto center of banana leaf, spread into thin rectangle about 2.5 x 4 inches. Some people really like thick vs. thin, this is up to you. Add 1 ts filling and spread evenly. Fold over sides and then ends. Flip and pat to even out the banh nam. Repeat with remaining batter and filling and steam for 15 minutes and serve still warm as a snack or with nuoc cham.