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Banh beo xu Hue (Hue bloating fren-shaped cake)

Therefore, it offers customers with sweet, buttery and smelling flavors. Without delicious sauce, the cake would become worthless. When serving, it is required to use a tool called Que Cheo (bamboo folk) to pass through the cake, cut into pieces, prick and eat. Customers would be impressed forever with having Banh beo in a green garden while listening to Hue folk song coming from the Perfume River.

Recipes: Hue bloating fren-shaped cake with shrimp and scallion oil (bánh bèo man)

Makes 32 pancakes, serves 4 as a starter

For scallion oil:
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced ( 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil

For batter:
1 cup rice flour, any Thai brand from an Asian market (Note: Do not use glutinous rice flour)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
1 3/4 cups water

For shrimp topping:
1/3 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 pinches of salt
1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
Pinch of sugar
2 pinches of white pepper
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce

For sauce:
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 Thai or serrano chile, thinly sliced (optional)

To make scallion oil: Have scallions ready in a small bowl so they may be quickly added to the oil. In small saucepan, heat oil over medium heat until hot. To test, drop in a scallion slice; it should sizzle on contact. Add scallions and stir immediately to expose them quickly to the oil. When scallions have collapsed and are soft, after about 30 seconds, remove from heat. Transfer scallions and oil to a small heat-proof bowl and let cool completely.

The garnish will keep for several hours at room temperature. Or, cover and refrigerate for up to 7 days, then bring to room temperature before using. Makes about 1/4 cup. 

To make batter: In a bowl, stir together rice flour, cornstarch and salt. Make a well in the center, pour oil and water into the well, and whisk together to produce a thin, smooth batter. You should have about 2 cups batter. Let batter rest for 30 minutes. 

To make topping: In small saucepan, combine shrimp and salt with water just to cover and bring to boil over medium heat. Cook about 8 minutes, or until all water has evaporated. (This intensifies flavor of shrimp.) Transfer shrimp to small bowl and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a mini food processor and process to a minced, fluffy texture. Or mince by hand using a knife. Return shrimp to bowl.

In small non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add shallot and saute about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add shrimp and stir to combine. Sprinkle in sugar, pepper and fish sauce. Continue to cook, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes to dry shrimp, lowering heat when bits of shrimp pop. Shrimp are done when they look crumbly and are brilliant orange. Transfer to bowl and set aside until ready to use. (Shrimp may be prepared up 3 days in advance, cooled, covered, and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.) 

To make sauce: In a small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, water and fish sauce and stir to dissolve sugar. Taste and make any adjustments to create a light, slightly sweet sauce. Add chile and set aside until serving time. 

To cook pancakes: Fill bottom section of steamer halfway with water and place steamer tray on top. Bring water to rolling boil over high heat. Nearby have ready the batter, a ladle, a small knife or metal spatula and serving plates for holding the pancakes.

Make pancakes in batches. Have ready about 8 small dishes, each about 2 1/2 inches wide and at least 1/2 inch deep. Put dishes into steamer tray, placing them away from the edge where condensation collects. So that batter will set quickly, cover steamer and let dishes preheat for 2 minutes. Remove lid carefully. Do not let condensation drip into the dishes. Ladle batter to a depth of 1/4 inch into each dish (about 1 tablespoon batter.) Replace lid and steam 3 minutes, or until pancakes are shiny and firm and have a shallow indentation in center. Reduce heat to low and wait for steam to subside before lifting lid, and then lift it away from you carefully to avoid condensation dripping onto the pancakes. Use metal tongs to transfer dishes to counter. Let pancakes cool 2 minutes. They will firm up slightly. 

To unmold: Dip tip of knife (or spatula) in water and run it along edge of a pancake to loosen it. Use your fingers to gently pry pancake from dish, and then place it on a serving plate. Repeat until you have unmolded all the pancakes. The finished pancakes resemble tiny white plates.

Return steamer to a boil over high heat. Give the dishes a quick rinse and wipe before returning them to the steamer tray for another batch. Repeat until all batter is used. (Cooled pancakes may be covered with plastic wrap and kept at room temperature up to 8 hours.) 

To serve: Fill indentation of each pancake with a generous 1/2 teaspoon of shrimp topping and dot with a generous 1/4 teaspoon of scallion oil garnish. Serve with the sauce. The best strategy for eating the pancakes is to use chopsticks to scoot one onto a soup spoon and then drizzle on some sauce.

From Andrea Nguyen of Santa Cruz, whose first cookbook, ``Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors,'' will be published in October by Ten Speed Press

Banh beo xu Hue (Hue bloating fren-shaped cake)

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