Vietnamese fried savoury glutinous rice cakes, also known as banh ran man (baan-ran-maan), are a beloved street food in Vietnam. Imagine the satisfaction of biting into these oval-shaped cakes and experiencing the crispy crust, chewy glutinous rice dough, and flavorful meat and vegetable filling. Served with a side of sweet and salty fish sauce, along with a refreshing green papaya and chayote squash salad, banh ran man is a culinary delight. In Vietnam, enjoying this dish with friends at a cozy street-food stall on a chilly day creates lasting memories. Making banh ran man at home is not overly complicated; however, achieving the perfect balance of potato starch, glutinous rice flour, and regular rice flour is crucial for the desired crunchy exterior and glutinous interior. One common challenge is preventing the cakes from cracking or deflating. After numerous trials, I have perfected the recipe and discovered some valuable tips.
- To ensure the perfect texture of your banh ran man, it’s crucial to have a dry filling. Any excess moisture can lead to steam formation during frying, resulting in an inflated and cracked crust. To address this, ensure that all filling ingredients have minimal or no liquid content. Additionally, after shaping the cakes, allow them to rest for 1-2 hours. This resting period allows the dough to extract more liquid from the filling.
- During frying, make sure the cakes are fully immersed in oil. Inadequate oil coverage can create temperature inconsistencies within the cake, leading to inflation and cracking in areas not fully submerged.
- For the best results, double fry the cakes. Start with medium heat to prevent rapid puffing, which can cause cracking. Then, increase the heat for the second fry to achieve a crispier crust.
Don’t fret if it appears overwhelming; I’ll walk you through the process of making this tasty snack step by step. So grab your apron and let’s begin!
- 250 grams glutinous/sticky rice flour
- 35 grams rice flour
- 30 grams sugar
- 5 grams salt
- 50 grams potatoes or yam, or 50 grams potato starch
- 200 – 240 ml lukewarm water (40 – 50˚C)
- About 300 – 400 ml oil for frying
- 175 grams ground pork
- 50 grams carrots
- 18 – 20 grams glass noodles (also known as mung bean noodles)
- 3 wood ear mushrooms (also known as black fungus) (8 – 10 grams)
- 5 ml oil
- 20 grams onion
- ½ teaspoon salt or seasoning powder
C. Pickled vegetables
- 300 grams chayote squash, green papaya, carrot
- 20 grams sugar
- 10 ml (2 tsp) lime juice or vinegar
- ½ teaspoon seasoning powder or salt
D. Fish Sauce
- 25 grams (1.5 tbsp) sugar
- 15 – 18 ml (1 tbsp) lime juice or vinegar
- 175 ml (11 – 12 tbsp) water
- 15 – 20 ml (1 – 1.5 tbsp) fish sauce
- Minced garlic, ground pepper, chili peppers – to taste
(*) Note: I use a Thai brand for both glutinous rice flour and regular rice flour. If you are grinding your own flour, make sure to adjust the amount of water used as the flour will already be moist.
A comprehensive recipe, along with specific notes, is available on Savoury Days’ YouTube Channel. Make sure to subscribe to receive all the latest recipe uploads. The recipe is provided in both English and Vietnamese languages. To select your preferred language, click on CC > Setting > Language. You can find the recipe at this link or watch the video below.
A. Making the dough
- Steam or boil the potatoes/yam until they are soft. If you don’t have either of these, you can substitute with 50 grams of potato starch.
- Mash the potatoes/yam until they become smooth.
- In a large bowl, combine the glutinous rice flour, rice flour, and salt. Mix them well. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the mashed potatoes/yam.
- Slowly pour in lukewarm water, starting with 170 – 180 ml. Use a spoon to mix the ingredients in a circular motion, starting from the outer edges. Once the dough starts to come together, knead it by hand. Gradually add more water as you continue kneading until you achieve a smooth and elastic dough.
*Note: The amount of water needed may vary depending on the type of flour used and its water absorption capacity. Generally, savoury rice cakes require more water. The water helps to create a chewy dough and prevents it from cracking during kneading. Moreover, a higher hydration dough rises better during frying.
- Wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30-60 minutes. It is also recommended to allow the dough to rest for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator, covered.
While the dough is resting, you can proceed to prepare the filling.
B. Preparing the filling
- Soak the glass noodles and wood ear mushrooms in lukewarm water for about 5-10 minutes until they become soft.
After 5-10 minutes, drain the water and squeeze out any excess liquid. Slice the wood ear mushrooms into thin slices. Cut the glass noodles into strands measuring 2-3 cm.
- Peel and shred the carrots. Dice the onion.
- In a bowl, combine the ground pork, carrots, onion, wood ear mushrooms, and glass noodles. Add the oil and seasoning powder or salt. Mix everything well, then divide the mixture into 12 portions, with each portion weighing approximately 25 grams.
*Note: It is important for the wood ear mushrooms and glass noodles to be thoroughly dry when mixed with the other ingredients. If the filling is too wet, it may cause the rice cakes to crack when frying.
- Divide the dough into 12 portions, with each portion weighing roughly 50 grams.
- Take a piece of dough and slightly flatten it. Roll it out so that the outer edges are slightly thinner than the center. Place one portion of the filling in the middle of the dough. Shape the dough around the filling, ensuring it adheres completely and there is no air trapped inside. This step is crucial to prevent the rice cakes from cracking during frying. Seal the dough completely and shape it into an oval. Set it aside and repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling.
- The dough should have sufficient moisture to feel soft and stretchy, not crumbly. If the dough crumbles, dampen your hands with some water and gently knead the dough between your hands. The water will be absorbed by the dough, making it less dry.
- Remember to cover both the filled and unfilled dough balls with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.
- After completing the dough preparation, allow it to rest for a minimum of 1 hour. Keep it covered with plastic wrap during this time.
Meanwhile, you can prepare the pickled vegetables and fish sauce.
C. Preparing fish sauce and pickled vegetables
- Peel the green papaya (or chayote squash) and cut it into long pieces, then slice them thinly. Place the papaya slices in a colander and sprinkle ½ tsp of salt over them. Mix well for 1 minute, then rinse thoroughly with cold water and drain.
- Peel the carrots and cut them into 7-8 cm long pieces. Make a thin groove along one side of each carrot piece. Repeat this four more times, maintaining an even distance of about 1 cm between each groove. This will create a flower shape. Slice the carrot pieces thinly along their length, resulting in flower-shaped pieces.
- Place the green papaya and carrots in a bowl. Add sugar and mix well. Let them sit for 30 minutes to retain their freshness and crispness.
- After 30 minutes, add lime juice and seasonings to the bowl and mix well. Cover tightly to allow the seasonings to infuse into the vegetables.
- In another bowl, combine 25 grams of sugar, 15 ml of lime juice, and water. Mix well and taste. Keep in mind that the suggested amounts of sugar and lime juice are for reference only, and you can adjust them to your preference. Aim for a balanced flavor of sweetness and sourness.
Gradually add fish sauce while mixing thoroughly. The amount of fish sauce is also a reference, so add it gradually, tasting in between, until the desired flavor is achieved.
Once done, cover the fish sauce. Preparing the sauce in advance helps enhance its flavor. It is recommended to do this step before preparing the filling.
D. Deep frying
- Pour oil into a saucepan, preferably a small one, to ensure the balls are fully submerged in oil. Using a smaller pan will also help save oil.
- Heat the oil over medium heat. The ideal temperature for frying is around 150-160°C when adding the balls. Avoid exceeding 170°C, as higher temperatures can cause the balls to crack. Conversely, the oil should not be below 130°C, as it will result in hard and chewy balls.
If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the oil’s temperature by dipping a wooden chopstick into the oil. If the oil steadily bubbles around the chopstick, it indicates that the oil is hot enough for frying. If the oil bubbles vigorously, it is too hot and needs to cool down slightly.
- Carefully place the dough balls into the hot oil. After 30-45 seconds, when the surface of the balls slightly shrinks, gently swirl them using a pair of chopsticks to prevent sticking.
- Fry the balls over medium heat at around 150-160°C. Once the balls rise to the top, it indicates that the filling is cooked through. However, at this stage, the crust may not be brown yet. Continue frying for another 5-10 minutes, constantly swirling the balls to achieve an even browning of the crust. The total frying time should be approximately 15-17 minutes.
- If the balls are not yet crunchy, fry them for an additional 5-7 minutes over higher heat (170-180°C) until the crust becomes crispy and golden brown. It is recommended to follow this double-fry method as it helps maintain the crunchiness of the balls for a longer time.
- If the crust inflates, cracks, or explodes during frying, there may be several reasons:
- Air is trapped between the dough and the filling.
- The dough is too thin in proportion to the amount of filling, causing the dough to crack when the filling expands during cooking.
- The dough is too dry, allowing air to enter during shaping.
- Serve the fried cakes with fish sauce and green papaya/chayote squash salad on the side. Optionally, you can add Sriracha (hot sauce) as well. Dip the fried cakes generously in fish sauce and serve them hot.
A successful batch of fried glutinous rice cakes will have a crunchy golden crust and a thin, chewy interior. The exterior should rise and separate from the filling, while the dough remains intact without cracking, and the filling should be soft.
If the cakes do not rise properly, it could be due to the dough being too dry or the frying temperature being too low. If the cakes turn out hard, it indicates that they have been fried for too long at a low heat.
Common Problems and Solutions:
- Dough crumbles, difficult to wrap: The dough is too dry.
- During frying, the crust cracks or explodes: Refer to step 6 above.
- Ball is not smooth: The dough is too dry and cracks during shaping.
- Ball is chewy or hard, undercooked: The frying temperature is too low.
- Ball is hard and does not rise: The dough is too dry or the frying temperature is too low.