We used to buy these steamed cakes from the Asian supermarket every once in a while- they were always cleverly placed near the checkouts so that whilst we were waiting in line, we’d be tempted by the bright colours of the many varieties available. My parents liked buying the nice round ones with red bean, but I liked the off cuts because it tasted the same, but you’d get a lot more than with the nicely shaped ones. They were always soft and chewy (unless we kept them for too long) with a fragrant pandan coconut taste but one packet was never quite enough for our family of four!
It took me a while, but I eventually managed to find the name of these cakes, and a recipe too! 🙂 Turns out they’re Vietnamese (although there’s Indonesian/Malaysian versions as well, they’re just not quite the same as the ones I used to have), and are made of tapioca, which gives them the nice chewy texture.
As I had all the ingredients in the pantry, and the method was quite simple (i.e. mix everything together and steam), I got to work quickly. There is a bit of skill involved in the layering- add the next layer too early and the two layers will mix, resulting in less defined layers (like my bottom later). Add the the next layer too late, and the layers will be too distinct and will peel off each other when cooled (like my top few layers).
To save time, I made mine all in a big pan and cut it into diamonds- they don’t look as impressive as the store-bought ones, but they tasted every bit as amazing! Only thing was they didn’t keep past a day, because they turned hard afterwards. It’s alright though- we could easily finish off the whole batch in one go next time anyway!
Steamed Tapioca Layer Cakes (Banh Da Lon) Recipe
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
400mL coconut milk
2 cups tapioca starch/flour
1/2 cup Rice Flour
a few drops pandan essence
- In a sauce pan over low heat, dissolve sugar and salt in coconut milk and water. Let cool. In a large bowl, combine tapioca , rice flour and the coconut mixture. Stir well until dissolved. Divide the mixture into two bowls. In one of the bowls, pour a few drops of pandan essence to make a green batter.
- Grease a pan or mould with oil. I used a round cake tin.
- Fill pan with a layer of the green green mixture and steam until surface is dry, then add white mixture onto the green layer.
- Continue steaming until the white layer is dry (it will turn translucent) and then continue to add some green mixture to create another layer on top. Repeat this, with alternating colours until the mixtures are used up.
- Let cool completely and cut into pieces with a greased knife. It is best eaten within a day, but if you keep it longer and it goes hard, just put it in the microwave for a bit and it will soften again.