Bánh Ít Kẹp Bánh Ram (Steamed and Fried Glutinous Rice Dumplings)

Ingredients

for dough

3 cups sweet rice

1.5 cups water

filling

1/4 lb shrimp, shell off, cut into small pieces

1/4 lb pork, cut into small pieces

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced or 1 tsp garlic powder

1 green onion, used only the white parts, minced

1/2 tablespoon fish sauce

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1/8 cup dried shredded wood ear mushrooms, soaked, cut into shorter strings, optional

green onion oil, for topping

1 tablespoon oil

1 green onion, finely minced

2 shallots, thinly sliced

a pinch of salt

minced shrimps, for topping, optional

1/4 lb shrimps, shell off

1/4 cup dried shrimps, optional

for fish sauce dressing

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons coconut water or water

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1/4 Thai bird's eye chili pepper

1 teaspoon finely diced red bell pepper, optional

1 teaspoon finely diced green bell pepper, optional

other

24 banana leaf circles or aluminum foil circles

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Directions

Preparing Dough
In a mixing bowl, combine glutinous rice flour and water.  Wear latex disposable gloves to keep hands free of sticky dough.  Mix well. Knead until smooth and soft. If the dough happens to be wet or dried, add just a little bit of flour or water as appropriate. You can test for the right texture of the dough by shaping it into a small ball and flatten it down.  The dough is good when it doesn't break apart. Cover and let it rest. 

The glutinous rice flour I used in this recipe is made in the USA and it doesn't have the smell of old flour.  If you use other brands that are made in Thailand or Vietnam, they tend to carry the smell of old flour; you might want to try this method below that I learned from my mother to get rid of that smell.

Place a double layer of good paper towel on top of the colander. In a large bowl, place a small rice bowl inside it. Then place the colander on top of the large bowl. Pour glutinous rice flour into a colander.

Add about 3 cups of water into the flour. Use a spoon to mix it until the water mixed well with flour. Cover the colander and let the water drip into the large bowl for about a couple of hours or until flour is no longer liquidy.

Remove the paper towel. Use another paper tower to blot the dough to remove any remaining water on it.

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Sauteing Pork and Shrimps Filling
I like the crunchy texture of the dried wood ear mushroom in the filling.  In this recipe, you don't see this ingredients combined in the filling as I didn't have it available at that time.
In a skillet, bring a tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Add in sugar, white part of onion, garlic, and shallot, stirring until fragrant. Add pork, mushroom, if used, and stir a few minutes until the pork cooks half way. Add shrimps, fish sauce, and ground pepper, stirring well. Saute for a few minutes until the sauce becomes thick and coats the pork and shrimps and the color changes to brown, remove it from heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning for a good balance of sweet, and salty.

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Cooking Shallots and Green Onion Oil

In a small saute pan, bring oil over medium heat. Add shallots, stirring occasionally until the shallots begin to turn golden brown. Turn off the heat. Remove shallot from the hot oil and set aside. Shallots will lose its crispiness if combined with green onion. Add green onion and salt into the oil pan, mix well.

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Preparing Minced Shrimp Topping

I like the combination of both the aroma and taste of fresh and dried shrimps but using fresh shrimps alone is good too. 

Preparing dried shrimps - rinse shrimps a few times. Soak it in water for 10-15 minutes until soft. Drain shrimps. Pound shrimps into a coarse paste with a mortar and pestle.

Preparing fresh shrimps - bring water to a boil. Add shrimps and cook for a minute until shrimps turn pink. Remove shrimps, peel, and smash shrimps with a meat tenderizer or the back of the knife. You can also pound shrimps into a coarse paste with a mortar and pestle.

Place a frying pan on low heat, add the crushed dried and fresh shrimps. Use a spatula to mix the shrimps for about 5 minutes or until shrimps are completely dry and bluff.  Season it with a dash of salt, or fish sauce, if preferred. Set aside.

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Mixing Fish Sauce Dressing
Combine all the ingredients for the fish sauce dressing and mix well. The purpose of adding finely diced red and green sweet bell peppers to the fish sauce dressing is to add sweetness and appeal.

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Forming Dumplings

Rub a little cooking oil on your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Divide dough into 24 balls for steaming and frying.

Forming Dough for Steam Dumplings - roll each ball into a smooth ball in the palm of your hands and flatten into a thin flat round. Put about a teaspoon of filling onto the center of the dough and bring up the edges of the dough to cover the filling completely. Roll it gently in circular motion with the palm of your hands to smooth out the surface of the ball.  Set the ball on a banana leaf circle.

Forming Dough for Fried Cakes - roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball in the palms of your hands. Place it on a banana leaf circle and flatten into a 1/4 inch flat round.
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Cooking Dumplings and Cakes

There are two methods of cooking dumplings and cakes

Boiling - it is not necessary to use banana leaf circles in this boiling method.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the dumplings and cakes into the boiling water and cook in gentle boiling water until they rise to the top. Let them cook for another minute to ensure the dumplings and cakes are cooked through, then lift out with a slotted spoon. Place dumplings and cakes onto a lightly oiled plate to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the plate.

Steaming - In a bottom layer of a steamer, add water, about half of the pot, and bring to a boil.  Steam dumplings and cakes gently for about 20 minutes until they are cooked and have a nice and soft texture.

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Making the Crispy Cakes

In a pot or a skillet, bring oil over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the steamed flat cakes to the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides. It's important not to fry it too long to maintain a soft center and a crispy cover. Remove and drain on paper towels.

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Presentation

Place a steamed dumpling on top of a crispy cake. Top with green onion oil, fried shallots, and minced shrimps. 

Serve with a sweet and tangy fish sauce dipping. I also like to serve sweet and tangy pickled cucumbers, cubed daikon or radish on the side to help cleanse the palate. Enjoy!

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