This is a Vietnamese/Chinese cake called bánh bò (Vietnamese) or bak tong goh (Chinese). Literally translated, the Vietnamese name Bánh Bò, means Cow Cake/Pastry or Crawl Cake/Pastry The cake (Bò can mean either cow or to crawl). How this name came to be, I have no idea. The Chinese name Bak Tong Goh, translates to White Sugar Cake, which makes sense since the cake is traditionally white and made with white sugar. This cake originated in china and made its way into Vietnam via the Chinese colonization of Vietnam. The Vietnamese took this cake and made it their own with the aid of coconut milk (in the batter and as a dipping sauce) and pandan leaves (lá dứa) which explains why the vietnamese version is often green. Traditionally, the cake is made with fermented rice wine (aka cơm rượu). The yeast from the wine leavens the cake and gives it its distinctive “fermented” taste and honeycomb like texture. Modern recipes call for yeast instead of rice wine since yeast works faster and is more convenient; yeast = 100% yeast, rice wine = yeast + water + sugar + rice (the amount of yeast in rice wine is depends on the recipe for the wine…not all recipes are the same thus, it’s much harder to get the recipe right). As for the chewy texture of the cake, it comes from the yeast fermenting with the rice flour.
Always white and sometimes has a slightly sour taste. The sour taste is a result of the amount of time the batter is allowed to ferment after the addition of the syrup. The longer the time the more sour the cake becomes. I've come across many sources that argue bak tong goh shouldn't have the slightly sour taste. Likewise, there are also sources that claim the sour taste has to be there for the cake to be considered a success.
This version should never taste sour and there should be a slight accent of coconut. The use of pandan leaves is highly encouraged but not required. The cake is usually served with coconut sauce (made with coconut milk, sugar, salt, tapioca starch), and/or toasted sesame seeds, and crushed roasted peanuts. Usually available in many colors, most popular are white, yellow, pink, green and even purple.
**Both cakes should have a slight chewy texture and high “honeycombs”.
-1 package of rice flour (1lb)
-1 tsp sugar
-1 package of yeast (2 ½ tsp)
-2 cups water
*Dissolve yeast and sugar in water and mix with flour. Prove overnight or until the batter rises and falls.
-1 ½ - 2 cups sugar
-1 ¾ cups (400ml) coconut milk
-1 cup water
*Boil until sugar dissolves and cool to the touch (should be warm like bath water).
**Mix together A and B let rest for half an hour before steaming.
The above recipe is for the basic Vietnamese version. If you would like to make the Chinese version, replace coconut milk with water and add 1 tbs oil.
VinhlongVN from www.datviet.com
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