Layered Pastry and Mung Bean Cake – Banh Pia
From the soft and delicate layers of pastry to the fragrant mung bean filling, bánh pía is a beloved Vietnamese treat. This traditional snack has been around for centuries and continues to be enjoyed by many all over the world. The art of making it lies in crafting the perfect combination of ingredients so that each bite is full of flavor and texture.
Each layer of the flaky pastry is meticulously rolled out to a precise thinness, a skill that requires both patience and practice. These delicate sheets are then spread with the aromatic mung bean paste, a traditional filling made from boiled and mashed mung beans, sugar, and coconut oil. A hint of durian paste is also incorporated, lending a complex sweetness that pairs harmoniously with the mung bean. The durian’s distinct flavor, often polarizing to those unfamiliar, melds seamlessly in bánh pía, creating a sweet, creamy, and slightly pungent taste sensation.
The pastry is made from a combination of rice flour, tapioca starch, sugar, and other ingredients that give it its unique flavor. Each layer of pastry is carefully rolled out and spread with mung bean paste. The filling can be sweet or savory depending on the preference. Once all of the layers are assembled, the entire cake is steamed until cooked through.
The result is a golden-brown pastry that is crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The mung bean filling adds an additional layer of flavor and creamy texture to every bite. It’s no wonder bánh pía has been enjoyed for centuries!
Bringing the artistry of bánh pía into your own kitchen is a gratifying culinary adventure. Here’s the step-by-step process to create this delicious Vietnamese delicacy at home:
For Outer Dough:
- 220g all-purpose flour
- 40g sugar
- 1/3 teaspoon salt
- 70ml warm water
- 50ml vegetable oil
For Inner Dough:
- 100g all-purpose flour
- 40 ml vegetable oil
For Mung Bean and Durian Filling:
- 150g split mung beans, soaked in water for at least 4 hours
- 70g sugar
- 10g cornstarch
- 100g durian, flesh removed and pureed
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 20 ml vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- Red food gel (optional)
- Mooncake mould (optional)
Making The Outer Dough:
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt together.
- Gradually add in the vegetable oil while stirring, ensuring it is evenly incorporated into the dry mixture. Next, slowly pour in the warm water and continue to stir. As you mix, the dough will start to come together. Keep stirring until it forms a cohesive ball.
- Knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes to an hour.
Making The Inner Dough:
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour and oil until it forms a crumbly mixture.
- Gradually add in water while stirring until the dough comes together into a cohesive ball.
- Knead until it’s smooth and elastic.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour.
Making The Mung Bean Filling:
- Rinse the soaked mung beans and place them into a pot along with 400ml of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook over medium-low heat until the beans are completely soft. Make sure to skim off the white foam that surfaces during cooking.
- Once the water in the pot has evaporated and the mung beans are soft, transfer the beans to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy.
- Transfer the blended mung beans and 50g sugar into a non-stick pan. Cook over low heat while stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
- In a small bowl, mix 10g of cornstarch with 20 ml of water until a smooth paste forms. Gradually add this paste to the pan with the mung bean mixture, stirring constantly to ensure it is evenly incorporated.
- Next, add 20 ml of vegetable oil and 1 tsp of vanilla extract into the mung bean mixture. Stir well to ensure the oil and extract are fully incorporated. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
- Continue cooking the mixture until it becomes thick and the ingredients are well blended. At this point, turn off the heat and set it aside to cool.
Making The Durian Filling:
- Begin by taking the durian flesh and removing any seeds. Place the flesh into a blender or food processor, and blend until it becomes a fine puree.
- Transfer the durian puree into a non-stick pan. Add in the remaining 20g of sugar. Cook over low heat, continually stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Continue to cook the mixture until it thickens slightly. Be sure to stir frequently to prevent the mixture from sticking or burning.
- Once the mixture reaches the desired consistency, remove from heat and allow it to cool completely.
Combining The Two Fillings:
- Once both the mung bean and durian fillings have cooled, it’s time to combine them. Begin by taking a small portion of the mung bean filling and flattening it into a disc.
- Take an equal amount of the durian filling and shape it into a ball. Place the durian ball in the center of the mung bean disc.
- Carefully wrap the mung bean filling around the durian filling, sealing it completely. Repeat this process until all of the filling has been used.
- Each combined ball should be approximately the size of a large cherry. If necessary, adjust the amount of filling used for each ball to achieve the right size.
- Using the measured dough, divide it evenly into 10 approximately equal portions. Begin to form these into balls, and combine them with the prepared filling.
- Once all of the filling has been used, set the balls in the fridge as you prepare the dough.
Rolling and Shaping The Dough:
- Begin with the outer dough. Divide it into ten equal parts and roll each into a ball.
- Now take the inner dough and also divide it into ten equal parts, rolling each one into a ball.
- Take one outer dough ball and flatten it with a rolling pin into a round, thin circle. Place one inner dough ball in the center of the flattened outer dough.
- Carefully wrap the outer dough around the inner dough, covering it completely. Roll this combined ball gently in your palms to ensure it is sealed well.
- Using a rolling pin, lightly roll out this combined dough into an oval shape. Make sure it’s evenly thin. Be careful not to let the inner dough peek out from the outer dough.
- Then, similar to rolling a spring roll, begin at one end and gently roll the dough into a log shape. Ensure the roll is tight and even.
- Next, roll out the log shape into an oval one more time. Carefully and tightly roll it back into a log form. Make sure to maintain an even thickness throughout the roll.
- After each piece of dough is rolled, keep them covered with a tea towel or plastic food wrap to avoid them drying out. Continue this process until all the dough pieces have been rolled and covered.
- Allow the prepared dough to rest for about 15 minutes.
Wrapping The Filling and Decorating The Pastry:
- Roll out each piece of dough into a thin, wide circle, ensuring that the edges are thinner than the center.
- Place the filled ball of durian and mung bean mixture in the center of the rolled dough. Carefully wrap the dough around the filling, ensuring it is fully enclosed.
- Press the filled dough ball into the mooncake mold, making sure to push firmly so that the dough takes on the pattern of the mold. Then, gently tap the mold to release the Bánh Pía.
- Repeat the process for the remaining dough and filling.
- If desired, mix a little red food coloring with water and paint onto the surface of the Bánh Pía for a bright, festive look.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) for about 15 minutes. While the oven is heating, arrange your Bánh Pía on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, ensuring that they are spaced well apart.
- Bake the Bánh Pía in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they start to look slightly translucent. At this point, brush the egg yolk mixture onto the surface of the Bánh Pía.
- Return the Bánh Pía to the oven and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until they turn golden brown.
- Once done, remove the Bánh Pía from the oven and let them cool completely. Remember that freshly baked Bánh Pía will be soft. They will become firm and the flavors will develop more fully after a few days of storage.
Substituting Durian: If you are not fond of durian or can’t eat it, you can simply omit it from the recipe and increase the amount of mung bean filling. This will still result in a delicious Bánh Pía, just without the unique flavor and texture of durian. Adjust the quantity of mung bean filling based on your preference.
To keep the Bánh Pía Filling Moist and Delicious: For your Bánh Pía to be moist, delicious, and true to taste, it’s crucial to keep your filling slightly wet. Avoid overcooking the filling to the point of dryness. This moistness will make a significant difference in the final texture and flavor of your Bánh Pía, ensuring an authentic taste experience.
When applying the egg wash to the Bánh Pía, it’s essential to apply it sparingly and evenly, with just one coat. Avoid making it overly wet, as this could cause the Bánh Pía’s surface to peel off during baking, thereby compromising their appearance. Proper application of the egg wash will help achieve a glossy and golden finish, enhancing the Bánh Pía’ visual appeal.
How To Store?
Bánh Pía are best enjoyed a few days after baking, as this allows the pastry to soften and the flavors to meld together. During the initial day or two, you might notice that the pastry is a bit brittle and flaky. This is a normal part of the process, so don’t be alarmed.
To store your Bánh Pía, place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If left uncovered, the Bánh Pía can become more brittle.
Alternatively, wrapping them in plastic food wrap will help to retain their moisture, making the Bánh Pía softer. This way is particularly beneficial as the pastry will absorb the oil from the filling through the cling wrap, thereby becoming softer and more palatable. The cling wrap also seals the Bánh Pía’ moisture, preventing them from drying out. As such, by carefully wrapping each Bánh Pía in cling wrap before placing them in an airtight container, you can enhance both their texture and flavor, contributing to a truly enjoyable eating experience.
The method you choose depends on your personal preference.
But the best flavor can be experienced by enjoying the Bánh Pía at least a day after baking. If you’re unsure whether you prefer a drier or more moist pastry, try storing a few Bánh Pía both ways and see which you prefer. Experimentation is key to finding your perfect Bánh Pía texture.
If you’re looking to store the Bánh Pía for a longer period, they can be kept frozen for up to a month without losing their flavor or texture. To do this, transfer the Bánh Pía to a freezer bag, ideally double layers for extra protection. Ensure the bag is sealed properly, removing as much air as possible before storing it in the freezer.
When you’re ready to enjoy the frozen Bánh Pía, remove them from the freezer and let them thaw at room temperature. There’s no need to reheat them. Remember, Bánh Pía are best enjoyed a few days after baking, so having a batch in the freezer means you can savor these delicious treats whenever the craving strikes!
Variations of Bánh Pía
While the traditional Bánh Pía is typically filled with durian and mung bean paste, this versatile Vietnamese pastry can be customized based on personal preferences. For instance, other popular fillings include taro paste, red bean paste, and lotus paste. Each of these alternatives provides a distinctive flavor profile, catering to diverse palates.
In addition to these alternatives, for those who enjoy the contrast of sweet and salty, salted egg yolks can be incorporated into the filling. The salted egg yolks add a savory depth to the sweet fillings, creating a complex and gratifying flavor combination. This addition is especially appreciated by those who delight in the sweet-salty interplay. To incorporate a salted egg yolk, simply place it in the center of your chosen filling before wrapping it in the pastry dough.
Bánh Pía is a traditional Vietnamese pastry, made with a thin, flaky crust filled with sweet mung bean paste and durian. Preparing Bánh Pía at home requires expensive molds and skillful technique. Luckily, modern baking tools have simplified the process immensely, allowing you to enjoy these delightful delicacies in the comfort of your own home.
By following the recipe and guidelines provided here, you can savor the unique flavors and textures of Bánh Pía no matter where you are in the world. So gather up your ingredients and get baking! Enjoy these sweet treats with a cup of coffee or tea, or even as a dessert after meals. However you choose to enjoy them, Bánh Pía will bring a smile to your face and leave you with an unforgettable taste experience.
I’m Godfrey Jensen, CEO and head chef at Lapps Meats. We’re a top-quality butcher with over 70 years of experience. Our goal is to provide our customers with the best, freshest products possible. We take our food seriously, and we love serving the community by providing them with quality meat products.