Vietnamese Pandan Rice and Mung Bean Cake (Bahn Da Lon)

Vietnamese Pandan Rice and Mung Bean Cake (Bahn Da Lon)
© Connie Veneracion
  • 2 hrs
  • Prep: 30 mins,
  • Cook: 90 mins
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6
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Rice is to Asia what wheat is to most of the Western world. And while the West has vanilla for its go-to flavoring, in Asia, there is pandan. Traditional cakes, many flavored with pandan, are made with rice flour. And because ovens, as they are known in the West, are not native to Asia, rice cakes are often steamed rather than baked. 

The Vietnamese pandan rice and mung bean cake bahn da lon is one example. My introduction to this delicious sweet dish was via a restaurant a stone's throw away from my alma mater. I've dreamed of it since. It's sticky and chewy, sweet without being cloying, aromatic and creamy.

Bahn da lon is a steamed cake made with two distinct layers. There's the pandan-flavored rice dough and there's the yellow layer made with rice flour and mashed mung beans. Bahn da lon can be made with as few as two layers or as many as six or even eight alternating green and yellow layers. The key to keeping the layers from mixing with one another is to steam the layer one after the other.

If you can find split mung beans, use them as they cook much faster than whole mung beans.

While nothing compares to fresh coconut milk, if you have difficulty making it from freshly grated coconut, use canned coconut milk or coconut powder dispersed in warm water.

What You'll Need

  • For the Yellow Layer:
  • 1/2 cup split yellow mung beans
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup rice flour (not glutinous)
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • For the Green Layer:
  • 1 1/4 cups tapioca starch
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 cups pandan water

How to Make It

Rinse the mung beans several time. Place is a bowl and pour in two cups of water. Discard any piece that floats to the surface. Cover loosely and leave to soak for at least four hours. Overnight in the refrigerator is recommended.

Rinse the beans several times again. Drain and pour into a pan. Pour in about a cup and a half of water. Bring to the boil. Cover, lower the heat and simmer until mushy. Depending on the quality of the beans, this can take anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half.

Add water, a quarter cup at a time, if the mixture dries up before the beans are soft. Turn off the heat cool completely.

When the cooked beans have cooled, strain to remove any excess water. Pour the beans into the blender Add the sugar and salt and puree. Stir together the coconut milk, rice flour and tapioca starch. Add to the beans and process until smooth. 

Stir together all the ingredients for the green layer.

Prepare the steamer. Pour water into the pan and start heating it to boiling point.

Lightly spray eight to 12 single-serve ramekins. 

Pour about two tablespoonfuls of the green mixture into each ramekin. Arrange the ramekins in the steamer basket and steam for about seven minutes or until the top of the green layer is firm to the touch.

Divide the yellow mixture among the ramekins. Steam for 10 to 12 minutes or until firm. 

Divide the remaining green mixture among the ramekins. Steam for another five to seven minutes.

Loosen the cakes with an oiled knife. Serve warm or at room temperature. You may drizzle them with more coconut milk and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.