Monday, January 21, 2013

Vietnamese Coconut Cassava Cake (bánh khoai mì nướng)

This is one of my favourite childhood treats. 

On the weekends when I used to go grocery shopping with my parents at Asian supermarkets, my mum would be on a mission to get the week’s worth of groceries that she had planned and budgeted for, she’d be busy scouring bargains to stock up on and haggle with the shop owner for a free goodie once our shopping basket reached a certain amount. Most of the time it would just be a free bottle of oyster sauce but it gets added to practically everything we cook and we’d go through bottles fast. A free bottle of oyster sauce is worth fighting for…and Chinese mums will go to great lengths to save a bit of money here and there.

I would be on my own mission down the sweet aisles eyeing off the shelves overflowing with infamous Pocky, Hello Kitty, Yan Yan and the like, to see what treat I could get my parents to buy for me. It’s hard to resist Asian sweets when they make everything so damn cute!

Asian Snack Attack!

But in the end I would always be drawn to the selection of sweets near the counter. These are generally prepared by people who work from home, and distribute their goods to Asian supermarkets, which sell on commission. It would be fresh, homemade and have my parent’s approval. My favourite was Vietnamese coconut cassava cake.

This cake is unlike Western cakes which are light, fluffy and crumbly. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. It’s dense, sticky and chewy. For people who aren’t used to this kind of texture for a cake, I imagine that it would be quite strange. A lot of Asian cakes are like this and it's not an accident. Back in the day, few households owned ovens so many cakes were made by steaming resulting in a spongy texture. Also, cassava is used, which is very starchy and the plant also produces tapioca starch (similar to corn flour/starch) – a thickening agent for sauce and soups etc., hence it’s glutinous. As people acquired ovens, they adapted and could bake cakes that would normally be steamed. So now you will find steamed and baked versions of cassava cake. I like baked cassava cake as it has a caramelized crispy golden top which is a standard for Western cakes. This is the best part of the cake but it’s still sticky on the inside, so you get the best of both worlds.

Caramelised Crispy Top

I have been trying to recreate my childhood treat. I looked up recipes on the internet and found that a cassava cake is a common dessert across South East Asia due to the tropical climate, cassava thrives in the region. In Vietnam it’s known as bánh khoai mì nướng which literally means baked cassava cake and in Malaysia they call it kuih bingka with kuih referring to bite-sized snack/dessert foods commonly found in Malaysia. 

I’ve discovered that there are many ways to make a coconut cassava cake. It can simply be made with just cassava, coconut milk and sugar, these are the building blocks of the cake. There are various recipes which add other ingredients such as dessicated coconut, condensed milk, yellow mung beans and eggs. Every recipe I came across was different, reflecting the fact that this is one of those homemade treats where every mum would have their own way of making it. So after examining a few recipes, I started baking cassava cake with just a few ingredients and each time I made it, I would vary the ingredients and adapted my recipe until I got something that I felt was better than any other cassava cake I have ever eaten. It’s as sweet as I want it to be, coconutty and buttery with a hint of nuttiness due to the addition of yellow mung beans.

This is also a gluten free cake. It's interesting to note that a lot of Asian cakes are gluten free due to rice flour, tapioca flour, yellow mung beans etc. being commonly used to make cakes as these plants are easily cultivated in their tropical climate, wheat does not grow as well.

Vietnamese Coconut Cassava Cake

(I didn’t follow one recipe, I kept testing and adding in different ingredients until I got my desired taste and consistency of texture but credit goes to recipes by Pham Fatale and Lily’s Wai Sek Hong which I drew the most inspiration from)

  • ~ 900g grated cassava (two bags of frozen grated cassava from Asian supermarket)
  • 150g dried yellow mung beans
  • 170g butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup of coconut milk + 1 cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
Note: Fresh cassava requires much preparation (you have to peel then soak to remove some of the bitterness, grate, soak again, settle the starch, combine starch with grated cassava etc.) so I opted to use frozen grated cassava that I bought from my Asian supermarket. 


Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 20cm square baking tin with foil and grease with melted butter.

Thaw the frozen cassava. I left it in the fridge overnight and then put it in a strainer to drain away the extra liquid.

Prep yellow mung beans - In a bowl, wash yellow mung beans thoroughly and soak for at least 3-4 hours before cooking. Drain and place yellow mung beans in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to boil, then lower heat and cook mung beans for 15-20 minutes until the yellow mung beans are soft and tender. Drain well and then place the cooked yellow mung beans in a blender and pulse a few times, then add in ¼ cup of coconut milk and process to a fine puree.

Cooked yellow mung beans
Pureed yellow mung beans with coconut milk

In a large bowl, whisk the caster sugar and eggs together, then add in vanilla extract, salt, melted butter, 1 cup of coconut milk, condensed milk, cassava, dessicated coconut and pureed yellow mung beans. Mix together well so that everything is fully incorporated.

Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake for 1 hour until the top is a crisp golden brown.

Cool and then slice into pieces.

You can’t get more tropical than the combination of cassava and coconut so I am entering this cake into this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop hosted by Dining with a Stud. Enjoy :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

3rd Blog Birthday - Win Blue Apocalypse Cooking Mix CD

I have been blogging for three years now. 

What have I been blogging about?

My blog is mainly about my cooking and a place to share recipes that I have grown up eating, where I recreate what I have learnt from my mum and dad. This will continue to be one of the focuses of my blog as I want to document all these recipes. Blogging has also been a motivation for learning to cook new dishes and revise old dishes. I have become a better cook because I blog and want to share interesting kitchen adventures. Nowadays I like to get a bit more creative with food because
maybe I am feeling a bit more confident at what I do.

Some of my favourite posts from the past year
Vietnamese Tacos

Chocolate Bourbon Cake with Bourbon Cider Jelly
 Mushroom and Rocket Sushi
Vietnamese Coconut Tartlets
Over the past year I did my first series of themed posts. It was a challenge that I put myself up to as my blog gets a lot of apocalypse related keyword searches like what to eat in an apocalypse, apocalypse food, apocalypse cooking, apocalypse spice, apocalypse desserts etc. (please note that my blog is named after the Tool song Eon Blue Apocalypse and has nothing to do with the end of the world!). So in the lead up to the Apocalypse last year on 21.12.2012, I decided to do some apocalyptic posts covering apocalypse inspired dishes, apocalypse related cooking and apocalyptic film dishes. I started out not really knowing what I was getting myself into or if I would come up with anything good. I thought that it would just be a funny thing to do but I took it quite seriously. I spent a lot of time working on apocalyptic dishes and in the end I produced what I think are some of my best blog posts (see links to all dishes here). I really enjoyed researching ideas and the creative process of putting together an apocalyptic dish. I learnt new cooking techniques to put together the elements of dishes and explored how I could relate the apocalypse to food through cannibalism, survival, films and game theory. 

Nuclear Chicken Apocalypse vs Pork Apocalypse
So I have decided to undertake another themed posts challenge for 2013. Music was my first major passion in life but nowadays it’s surpassed by food and blogging. This year I will be putting the two together and doing some music inspired dishes. I am currently researching and brainstorming ideas on how I can link music and food together.

(Read this post on the 10 Albums Which Changed My Life if you want to know about the impact of music on my life)

To celebrate my blog’s 3rd birthday and thank all the readers of my blog, twitter followers and Facebook fans, I will be giving away a Mix CD of some tunes that I like to listen to while I am cooking. The tracklist will be a surprise (concealed in an envelope in the inside cover). All I will say is that it will be an eclectic range of instrumental tracks ranging from jazz, indie, electronica, math rock, post rock and post metal that I spent my summer break carefully putting together.

I also hand painted the artwork (I used oil paints), hand sewn the CD insert and handwrote the tracklist.  

If you would like to win a Blue Apocalypse Cooking Mix CD, just write a comment below that contains the words “I want a Mix CD” and leave contact details (email/website/twitter handle).

This competition closes in 2 weeks at midnight on Friday 25 January AWST (Perth time). 
Winners will be drawn randomly and announced on Saturday 26 January.

There are three Mix CDs available and I will post to anywhere in the world.

p.s it has been a long time since I painted anything, what cover art do you think is the best?