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Banh Tet Recipe (Sticky Rice Cake) – Vietnamese Soul Food

During the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, bánh tét can usually be found in any house during the months January and February leading into the holiday festivities. I’m going to share with you an easy and delicious recipe for banh tet that you can make right at home any time of year!

Banh tet is THE soul food of Vietnamese culture. It is a delicious and savory Vietnamese rice cake dish that can be found in most Vietnamese households starting a week prior to New Year’s day. It is a fragrant and delicious dish that is unique to Vietnamese culture.

You’ll often find banh tet laid near a family’s ancestral altar as offerings which is a way that the Vietnamese pay gratitude to their passed loved ones. Tet is a family holiday that celebrates the refresh of a new year and prayers for good health and wealth during Lunar New Year. Elders will provide children “lucky money” in red envelopes, the ancestral altar is decorated with offerings of banh tet, fruit trays, flowers and cakes, and the family shows gratitude to ancestors through prayer. Tet is a holiday that allows the Vietnamese to look toward the future of a new year full of enthusiasm and optimism, which is celebrated by hanging out with family and friends surrounded by delicious food, like banh tet.

Banh tet can be eaten year round without the pomp and circumstance of Tet. This dish is so hearty and delicious, those that have ever had it will crave it every couple of weeks. Thankfully, the ingredients for this dish is readily available at local asian grocery stores so you can make it righ tat home.

While at first glance the recipe appears complex, the ingredients are quite simple and it’s the preparation that makes it appear harder than it is to make. 

In this post, I’m going to talk through some of the common questions I get about banh tet and then share my family’s recipe for it.

What is banh tet?

Bánh tét is a Vietnamese sticky rice cake made of ingredients that include soaked rice, mung beans, and pork belly which is then wrapped around tropical leaves into a log-like shape. The cylindrical package is then boiled for 6 to 8 hours. After boiling, the tropical leaf is removed and the cake is sliced into wedge servings. It is traditionally made in celebration of Tet, which represents the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.

What is the difference between banh tet and banh chung?

Banh tet and banh chung represent the same dish comprised of sticky rice, mung beans and pork belly, but they have different names in different Vietnamese regions.

Banh tet originates from central and south Vietnam and is usually referring to the log-like cylindrical shaped variety. Banh tet are generally wrapped in banana leaves.

Banh chung represents the north Vietnamese variety, which are wrapped into a square shaped brick. Another difference is that the square variety may often favor on the sweeter side. These are traditionally wrapped in large green, tropical leaves called la dong which is phyrnium placentarium.

Read more about the differences between banh tet and banh chung.

What are some other names for banh tet and what does it mean?

Banh tet is generally known in the western world as Vietnamese sticky rice cake.

Banh chung chay is a vegetarian version of this rice which omits the pork belly. There is another version called banh chung ngot which contains brown sugar and coconut flesh. There’s also banh chung gu.

The translation of each of these words are as follows:

  • Banh means snack.
  • Tet means sliced or split.
  • Chung means gratitude.
  • Chay means vegetarian.
  • Ngot means sweet.

What are the ingredients in banh tet?

Banh tet’s main ingredients include soaked glutinous rice, pork belly, and mung beans. The pork belly is seasoned with spices like fish sauce, salt and sugar. Most of the ingredients are cooked in advance before being mixed and rolled together.

In different variations of the recipe, dried shrimp may be added to add an additional hint of flavor.

Tropical leaves are used to wrap all of the ingredients. The leaves surround the sticky rice. At the center of the sticky rice, buttery mung bean meld delicious flavor into the bits of pork belly. T

Once wrapped around the filling, the tropical leaves are then tied together using plastic ribbons, often in gold or red to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

What does banh tet taste like?

The sticky rice provides a soft texture and introduction to the buttery mung beans and hearty pork belly. The rice is soft, chewy, and slightly sweet. The beans are rich and buttery. The pork provides a delectable savory melding of ingredients. The tropical leaves that surrounded the sticky rice provide a tea-like subtle flavor to the rice.

What are the variations for banh tet fillings?

Due to different regions, there are a multitude of variations of the filling making some more hearty and others sweeter.

The hearty version includes mung beans and pork fillings. The recipe for this one is listed below.

The sweeter version is generally the North Vietnam variety, which is wrapped in a square shape.

What does banh tet look like?

When banh tet is wrapped in tropical leaves before it is cut, it looks like a cylindrical lumbar pillow. After it’s been steamed and cut, banh tet looks almost like sushi, but with fillings of mung beans and pork belly.

The process for making banh tet begins 24 hours before when the ingredients are prepared before it goes into the water to boil. It is generally a family affair making banh tet, so as you embark on making this easy recipe, make sure you gather some family and friends to join in on the fun!

banh tet recipe vietnamese

Vietnamese Banh Tet Recipe

This recipe makes about 4 delicious and savory banh tet Vietnamese rice cakes!

Ingredients for Vietnamese Banh Tet – Sticky Rice Cake 

6 cups long-grain sticky rice (soaked overnight)
1 14-ounce cans of coconut juice (not to be confused with coconut cream)
1 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
Cold water for soaking
Banana or bamboo leaves
2 2/3 cup dried, hulled, and split yellow mung beans (soaked overnight)
1 1/4 pounds pork belly
1 tablespoon of pork belly
3 tablespoons of sea salt
1/2 tablespoon of fish sauce
3 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground

Directions for Traditional Banh Tet

The Night Before: Preparing the Ingredients

Soak the rice in coconut juice for 1/2 hour. Then, cover it with three inches of water and let it sit overnight.

banh tet rice

Place the mung beans in a bowl and rinse under cold water until the water is clear. Drain the beans, then add enough cold water to cover the mung beans by 1 inch. Let soak overnight. The minimum time for soaking is 8 hours.

Cut the pork belly into 3-inches long, 2-inches wide, and 1/2-inch thick pieces, ensuring that each piece has fat and skin. Add the fish sauce, sea salt, pepper, and pork belly to a bowl and mix well. Let the filling marinate overnight.

banh tet pork

Soak the tropical leaves, placing them in a large roasting pan and adding water to cover. Put a plate as a weight on top of the leaves to keep them submerged.

banh tet banana leaves

The Morning Of: Preparing the Ingredients

  1. Drain the rice in a colander and return it to the bowl. Gradually mix in the salt, sprinkling it over the rice and using your hands to distribute it well.
  2. Drain the mung beans. Using a steamer and a parchment paper as liner, lay the mung beans in the steamer tray and spread it out evenly. Place the tray onto the steamer and cover. Steam for 8 minutes or until the mung beans are tender. Let it cool. Once cool, add the cooled beans into a food processor until it as a whipped consistency. 
  3. Drain the bamboo leaves, rinse, and set aside.
  4. Rinse and pat the tropical leaves dry and cut them into sheets of 5″ x 12″. Set aside.

banh tet banana leaves

Assembling the Banh Tet with Ingredients

To make each banh tet cake, put a 12″ x 18″ inch sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil on your work surface, with the shortest side closest to you.

Scoop up 1 cup of the prepared rice and distribute the rice evenly.

Next, scoop up the mung beans and add it as a layer.

Lastly, add the pork belly on top.

banh tet filling

Now, roll the banh tet together and tie it with a string.

Don’t fear the wrapping, I know it can be quite intimidating. The most important step in this process is to make sure that the packaging is wrapped tight and will not leak.

banh tet string

Repeat these steps for the remaining 3 cakes.

banh tet filling

Boiling Banh Tet

  1. Fill a 12-quart stockpot half full with water. Place the cakes in the pot by stacking or standing them up. Add enough water to cover the cakes. Hint: To keep the cakes from floating, place a heavy ceramic plate on top to gently weigh it down.
  2. To maintain a gentle boil, keep a separate kettle of boiling water on the stove to replenish the stockpot as needed.
  3. After about 3 hours into cooking, the cakes should no longer float. At this point, remove the ceramic plate.
  4. After the seven hours of boiling, use tongs to transfer the cooked cakes to a pot of cold water. Once they are fully cooled, you should be ready to eat and store for 2-3 days.

Pressure Cooking Banh Tet in the Instant Pot

If you have an 8Qt, it’s possible to cook all 4 banh tet at once, if you have a 6Qt, you might have to cook them in two batches. Check out my specific post on Instant Pot banh tet where I share some of the tips and tricks on lessening the cooking times.

  1. Using a vacuum sealer, put the banh tet into food saver bags to remove the air and seal completely.
  2. Next, place the vacuum sealed banh tet cakes into the pot. Lay them horizontally into the pot to get them to fit.
  3. Fill the pressure cooker with water to completely submerge the cakes. 
  4. Cook for 45 minutes on “soup” mode.
  5. Allow it to do a full natural pressure release (approximately 1hour). 
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Note: You can also choose to wrap the banh tet with foil, then cook for 2 hours at high pressure and do a full natural pressure release. Again, ensure that you completely submerge them in water!

Serving Banh Tet

How do you eat banh tet?

There are three primary ways that banh tet can be eaten. In general, banh tet is usually served at room temperature or warmed up. Banh tet can be served by slicing at at room temperature, pan frying into a flattened pancake, or grilled until it’s light and roasted.

Cutting Banh Tet for Serving

Banh tet can be tricky to cut in order to dish out to your guests. Because it is a sticky rice, there is a risk when you cut the cake as the rice may flatten and mush.

To avoid this, a piece of string or floss can be used to cut through the cake. Here’s how you can cut banh tet for serving:

  1. Cut the string or floss about 36 inches long.
  2. Unwrap the banh tet, leaving the tropical leaves on bottom to allow you to maneuver the cake on a frictionless surface. The tropical leaves allow the banh tet to have a looser grip on the surface. Using the string for floss, descend it all the way through the other side of the cake.
  3. To transfer it to a serving tray, take your presentation plate and put it on top of the freshly cut banh tet. Next, invert and flip the cake and the plate. Remove the tropical leaves and you should be able to have a presentation of beautifully cut banh tet cuts.

banh tet cut and sliced

Does banh tet need to be refrigerated?

Bánh tét does not need to be refrigerated as long as it is still completely wrapped. It can be kept at room temperature for 7 days after cooking. After refrigeration, it can last 7 additional days in the fridge. If frozen, it can last up to 12 months.

How can I preserve banh tet?

You can freeze banh tet up to 12 months. Before freezing, I would recommend wrapping it in foil or vacuum sealing it first.

How do you refresh banh tet?

When banh tet has been preserved by refrigeration or freezing, naturally the fully cooked banh tet will harden.

In order to get back the soft, chewy rice, you can refresh it using these steps:

  1. Place the banh tet in a pot.
  2. Add about 1.5 inches of water into the pot. 
  3. Bring the pot to a boil and allow the water to dissipate.
  4. During that time, turn the cake every 10 minutes to even out the cooking.
  5. Take it out of the pot once the water dissipates, and allow the banh tet to rest and cool for about 30 minutes.
  6. You can then serve by cutting the banh tet.

How do you pan fry banh tet?

When you fry banh tet, the mung beans, rice, and pork meld into a crispy, chewy exterior that is absolutely hearty and delicious. Follow the following steps to pan fry banh tet:

  1. In a non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat.
  2. Cut the banh tet into 1-inch thick slices.
  3. Add half of the slices and fry, undisturbed, for about 6 minutes (or until the rice has softened).
  4. Use a spatula to press and mash the chunks to form a large pancake.
  5. Like an omlette, use the skillet handle to flip the flattened cake to fry the second side for about 4 minutes (or until crispy).
  6. Repeat with the remaining slices.
  7. Serve warm and fried!

How do you grill banh tet?

Grilling banh tet is also another way to serve it.

  1. Get the grill ready.
  2. Use a knife to cut the cake into 1/2-inch thick slices. Nicely cut cakes are not necessary if you are grilling.
  3. Lightly brush or spray the surfaces of the cake with enough oil to keep them from sticking to the grill.
  4. Once the grill is hot, put the cakes on the grill for a few minutes until the cakes have a light and even crust.

Where can you buy banh tet?

Banh tet can be found at Asian super markets around mid-January into February, which is when the Vietnamese New Year falls. Often, you’ll be able to find them in Vietnamese markets, deli’s, and bakeries.

If you purchase store bought banh tet, I would recommend eating it that day or refrigerating it and using the banh tet refresh tips above to ensure that your purchase does not get spoiled before eating it.

I normally do not buy store-bought banh tet because every family has a unique recipe of their own, and I am very partial to mine.

What do you serve with banh tet?

Banh tet can be included in an elaborate spread to celebrate the new year or can be served on a dish on it’s own. You can certainly enjoy banh tet by itself. However, as a celebratory dish, Banh tet is generally accompanied with charcuterie that includes cold cuts and pickled vegetables.

You can also dip it in sugar, which often brings out the sweetness of the glutinous rice. 

Summary of Banh Tet

Banh tet is the central food during the annual celebration of the Vietnamese holiday for Tet.

banh tet recipe vietnamese

During Vietnamese Tet, family members enjoy delicious foods and family gatherings in order for families to bond and celebrate the Lunar New Year. Tet sticky rice cakes are the must-have food for bringing in the Vietnamese New Year and can be enjoyed year round after the holiday! Try this banh tet recipe out and let me know what you think!

banh tet recipe vietnamese authentic recipe

Vietnamese Banh Tet Recipe - Sticky Rice Cake

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 1 day
Cook Time: 6 hours
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 1 day 8 hours
During the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, bánh tét can usually be found in any house during the months January and February leading into the holiday festivities. I'm going to share with you an easy and delicious recipe for banh tet that you can make right at home any time of year!

Ingredients

  • 6 cups long-grain sticky rice (soaked overnight)
  • 1 14-ounce cans of coconut juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
  • Cold water for soaking
  • Banana or bamboo leaves
  • 2 2/3 cup dried, hulled, and split yellow mung beans
  • 1 1/4 pounds pork belly
  • 1 tablespoon of pork belly
  • 3 tablespoons of sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 3 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground

Instructions

The Night Before: Preparing the Ingredients

Soak the rice in coconut juice for 1/2 hour. Then, cover it with three inches of water and let it sit overnight.

Place the mung beans in a bowl and rinse under cold water until the water is clear. Drain the beans, then add enough cold water to cover the mung beans by 1 inch. Let soak overnight.

Cut the pork belly into 3-inches long, 2-inches wide, and 1/2-inch thick pieces, ensuring that each piece has fat and skin. Add the fish sauce, sea salt, pepper, and pork belly to a bowl and mix well. Let the filling marinate overnight.

Soak the tropical leaves, placing them in a large roasting pan and adding water to cover. Put a plate as a weight on top of the leaves to keep them submerged.

The Morning Of: Preparing the Ingredients

Drain the rice in a colander and return it to the bowl. Gradually mix in the salt, sprinkling it over the rice and using your hands to distribute it well.

Drain the mung beans. Using a steamer and a parchment paper as liner, lay the mung beans in the steamer tray and spread it out evenly. Place the tray onto the steamer and cover. Steam for 8 minutes or until the mung beans are tender. Let it cool. Once cool, add the cooled beans into a food processor until it as a whipped consistency. 

Drain the bamboo leaves, rinse, and set aside.

Rinse and pat the tropical leaves dry and cut them into sheets of 5" x 12". Set aside.

Assembling the Banh Tet with Ingredients

To make each banh tet cake, put a 12" x 18" inch sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil on your work surface, with the shortest side closest to you.

Scoop up 1 cup of the prepared rice and distribute the rice evenly.

Next, scoop up the mung beans and add it as a layer.

Lastly, add the pork belly on top.

Now, roll the banh tet together and tie it with a string.

Repeat these steps for the remaining 3 cakes.

Boiling Banh Tet

Fill a 12-quart stockpot half full with water. Place the cakes in the pot by stacking or standing them up. Add enough water to cover the cakes. Hint: To keep the cakes from floating, place a heavy ceramic plate on top to gently weigh it down.

To maintain a gentle boil, keep a separate kettle of boiling water on the stove to replenish the stockpot as needed.

After about 3 hours into cooking, the cakes should no longer float. At this point, remove the ceramic plate.

After the seven hours of boiling, use tongs to transfer the cooked cakes to a pot of cold water. Once they are fully cooled, you should be ready to eat and store for 2-3 days.

Notes

You can also choose to wrap the banh tet with foil, then cook for 2 hours at high pressure and do a full natural pressure release. Again, ensure that you completely submerge them in water!

Nutrition Information:
Serving Size: 51 g
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 165 caloriesSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 16 mgmgSodium: 159 mgmgCarbohydrates: 30 ggFiber: 2 ggSugar: 1 ggProtein: 8 gg

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