Friday, December 24, 2010

Banh Khoai Mi nuong (Vietnamese Cassava Cake Baked)

Asian cuisine isn't really on the top of my list. But when I came across the A.W.E.D - Vietnamese event announcement on Priya Mitharwal's Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes, I decided to give it a shot. 

Most of the entrees were non vegetarian and I wasn't feeling 'salad-y' so I jumped to the desserts section. There were a couple of recipes which looked promising and I settled on the Banh Khoai Mi nuong.

Cassava is tapioca or marchini kizhangu or kappa. It appears to be Cassava season, with vendors on push carts hawking these large brown tubers. Having decided on the dessert, the only think I needed was the tuber itself, which was easily purchased.

Cassava tuber

I got the recipe from here and tweaked it a wee bit. Since shredded cassava is not a luxury available here, I did the shredding.

Cassava tubers : 1 1/2 cups 
Eggs - 2
Sugar - 1 cup
Coconut milk - 200 ml (first pressed milk extracted from 3 coconuts)
Banana/ plantain leaves - 2 sheets
Butter - 1 tbsp

Preheat oven to 200C
Preparing the tubers:
You'll need to buy 500 gms of Cassava (after peeling, soaking and shredding you'll be left with about 1 2/3rd cups for finely grated cassava). Peel the tough dark brown skin of the Cassava and soak in water for five minutes. Scrub the surface to get rid of any remaining reel/ mud. Stretch you arms and flex your muscles and use a cheese grater (yes, the one with the small holes) to finely grated cassava. The tuber releases a thick white liquid, not unlike first pressed coconut milk. This is the starch that gives the cake its unique consistency. Once you have 1 1/2 cups you can relax, that's all the recipe asks for.

You can read about how to extract coconut milk here. The original recipe asked for 400 ml and I stopped with only 200 ml since the batter appeared very fluid.

I also reduced the amount of egg in the recipe. I did not want a very 'eggy' cake....

Beat the eggs and sugar till light yellow and add the other ingredients. Lightly butter a baking dish and line with lightly buttered banana leaves. Use more leaves if you fell the need, the leaves should, I think, overhang from the sides of the baking dish. Pour batter into dish and bake for 35 to 40 mins. I also broiled it for a few minutes to slightly brown the upper crust. After baking, remove from oven let it cool a bit and de-pan by lifting the banana leaves. I tipped the cake onto another plate and lost the upper crust. 

Banh Khoai Mi
Piece of cake
 The cake was sticky, just like it was supposed to be. My mind refused to accept it as cake...mor like a well set pudding. And the coconut flavour was very strong. I'm not sure if the lemon peel and rum of the original recipe would have balanced the 'coconuttiness'. 

Verdict: The crust was delicious and maybe the batter can be used to make crepes? There wasn't much of a crumb to speak of and the cake does not make a good accompaniment for tea, as suggested at the site I got the recipe. We had the cake after dinner with some vanilla ice cream, which mellowed the coconut flavour. Would I make this again? I think I'm game for the steamed version of the same cake, only I just might omit the eggs the next time.

So off I send my Banh Khoai Mi nuong to A.W.E.D Vietnam hosted by Priya and inspired by DK

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