Bánh cam or bánh rán is one of the most famous and beloved Vietnamese desserts. A golden brown shell of sesame studded rice flour that is crispy on the outside yet chewy on the inside, yielding to a sweet and moist mung bean coconut filling. Growing up, my mom would make hundreds of bánh cam to sell and raise money for various charitable organizations and the entire family would sit around the table to help. Ever since we all moved away for college and our separate careers, it’s just been my dad helping her roll the bánh cam. It’s been years since I’ve laid my hands on this sweet ball of love, but recently, my parents came for a visit and we had the pleasure of convening around the table again as a family to make some bánh cam.
We’re not going to spend too much time belaboring the differences between bánh cam and bánh rán (as northerners would say) as they are nearly identical. Banh cam can sometimes be served with simple syrup and sometimes may not have sesame. Most of our friends and westerners affectionately call them sesame balls, which works perfectly fine with us.
Steamed mung beans, shredded coconuts, and sugar comprises the filling. The mung bean filling should be moist and not dry, and like most Asian desserts, not too sweet. You can make the mung bean filling days in advance and even store them in the freezer to keep handy.
The best way to enjoy bánh cam is hot out of the fryer when it’s most crispy. Flatten it back into a disk to evenly spread out the mung bean filling and enjoy with friends and family over tea.
Mung bean filling
MungBeans : 8 oz split peeled
Sugar : 1/2 cup
Warm Water : 1/2 cup
Shredded Coconut : 1/2 cup unsweetened
Water : 2 1/2 cup plus extra 1/4 cup
Sugar : 1 cup
Glutinous rice flour : 16 oz bag
Rice flour : 1 cup
Baking powder : 2 tablespoon
Mash potato flakes : 2/3 cup
- Soak mung beans overnight or at least 1 hr in warm water. Steam until soften and easily smashed with your finger tips, roughly 20 minutes (or longer if not soaked overnight). In meantime, dissolve sugar in warm water. When mung bean has cooled, transfer to mixing bowl and coarsely mash. Add the sugar water mixture and coconut and mix well. The texture should be like mashed potatoes. Allow to cool and form small quarter size balls of mung bean. Refrigerate covered.
- Dissolve the sugar in 2 1/2 cup of warm water. In large mixing bowl, add sugar mixture and the potato flakes and stir to dissolve. Then add the baking powder and stir to dissolve. Finally add the two types of rice flour and mix together to form a big ball of dough. There is no need to knead the dough. The dough should be a wet play-dough consistency. Add a few tablespoons at a time of the extra 1/4 cup of water to the dough and mix well if it’s too dry or gets to dry when working. Pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough and form into a ball. Flatten to a disk with palm of your hands and thin out the edges to form a pancake. If the dough cracks at the edges, it’s too dry. Add a few tablespoons at a time of the 1/4 cup of water to the dough and mix well. Place the filling in the center and fold dough edges together and seal seams by rolling in the palm your hands.
- Roll in a bowl of sesame seeds to cover completely. Roll in the palm of your hands to make sure the sesame seeds stick.
- Cover loosely at room temperature and allow to rest for at least 1 hour. Fry at 325 degrees, rotating the banh cam frequently for even frying. It’s okay to fry many at a time as you want them to be submerged in oil for even frying. When golden brown, remove and drain and enjoy.
Note: You can delay the frying i.e. make this in advance beyond than 1 hour time to rest, but we wouldn’t wait any more then 1 day before frying. To reheat, toast in toaster oven until crispy.