How to make steamed rice cake banh bo

steamed rice cake, banh bo


This is a delicious Vietnamese dessert called steamed rice cakes also known as banh bo.  When I was little, my grandma used to make this for me (minus the coconut milk). There is a chinese version to this cake that doesn't use coconut milk. In hmong we call this "ncuav sawv".

Many years ago when I tried to learn how to make this dessert, I failed miserably 13 times.  On my 14th attempt, I finally got the beautiful honeycombs in my steamed rice cake. Oh boy, what a journey that was!  The key to this recipe is PATIENCE!!!! Do not rush anything otherwise, you'll end up with a flat and unflattering cake.  I also found that the secret to nice honeycombs is also in the preparation of the first step. It is critical that you have a good solid container.

If you use instant yeast, you only need to allow the batter to rise for about 1 hour, then add the coconut/water/sugar mixture and let rest 20 minutes and then you can steam it. No need to wait 5-10 hours.


  • 1 - 16 oz bag rice flour
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 package yeast or 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1 - 13 oz can coconut milk (the cooking kind is preferred, do not use dessert coconut milk)
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar (adjust sugar to your liking)
  • 1 cup water
  • gallon ice cream bucket or other airtight container

Step 1

  1. Add 2 cups warm water, yeast, and 1 tbsp sugar to an ice cream bucket. Mix.
  2. Add rice flour and mix.
  3. Close lid, set aside for 5 - 10 hours (or overnight).  The batter will rise and fall.  The longer you keep it in the container, the stronger the flavor. 

Step 2

  1. In a small pot, add 1 cup water, coconut milk, and the sugar. Heat on medium until sugar is dissolved. Do not boil.
  2. Set aside for 10-15 minutes until cool.

Mixing it all together

  1. Using a whisk, stir the batter to loosen it from the ice cream bucket.
  2. Add the syrup from step 2 to the batter. Mix.  It will become the consistency like milk.
  3. Close lid.
  4. Set aside for 1 hour.

After 1 hour

  1. Open lid and you will see tiny air bubbles form.
  2. If you want to make multiple colors, separate the mixture into equal parts. Add food coloring of your choice. Skip this step if you don't want color.
  3. Heat a steamer to boiling and place a metal pie pan.  Make sure the metal pie pan is hot before you pour in the mixture.
  4. Steam on high for about 15-20 minutes.
  5. When the rice cake is done, the top surface should be solid.
  6. Remove from steamer and place into a freezer for about 10-15 minutes until cool.
  7. Transfer onto plate and cut. Serve

I hope you try this recipe and let me know how it turns out for you!


  • Steam in tart molds
  • Cut up the bottom of soda cans and use as a mold.  It has a unique shape!
  • Steam in small round molds or dishes


Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. I can't wait to give it another try.

Let me know if it works for you!

I am going to try to make this with my 5yrs old this weekend.  My sister and I tried in the past but alway got a bad result. Annie,Just wonder do you have or able to show me how to make Asian bread stick.  You know the kind that we eat with the coffee in the morning.  I am not sure what it called in Hmong or vietnamess, but Khmer we called, "Cha Kwai".Thanks.Teri,

It's called pant ago

Annie...How do you make lukewarm water..... 

Hey Annie, Thanks for sharing. Your right, it sure does take time but its will worth it. Maybe on your next video, you can show us how to make sticky rice with coconut. 

Thanks for your comment!

hello there i luv ur cookin videos can u please do a kapoon salad too i dont know how to, it would be nice if yu can do one .. would love to see that...

I will do one soon :-) Thanks!

hi there Annie,i was just wondering that where did u buy the Yeast n the Food Colors that u used?i have write a comment on hmong food on facebook n also on youtube as well..But u haven't reply me back yet..i dont know if u see my comments yet!!!!i'm really want to make the Steamed Rice Cakes...Oh n i like the colors that u always used making steamed rice cakes n jello things..ehehhehe,let me now !!!THANKS                                                                                                 

Hi there, I bought my yeast at the american grocery store.  You can use any brand of yeast. I bought my powder food coloring from an asian market here in Madison that sells Indian food. If you can't find powder food coloring, try the liquid kind it works well too.  Good luck!

thank you for sharing! can't wait to see new recipes :-)

You're welcome! More recipes coming soon.

Annie, Zoo siab uas koj tseem muaj lub siab dawb paug share koj cov recipes ua zaub ua mov thiab khoom qabzib txom ncauj no rau peb ib tsoom niam tsev sawv daws thiab. Tus neeg siab dav thiab muaj lub siab loj thiab muaj kev laj lim thoob tsib thiaj lis kam share rau sawv daws. Kuv tau paub ib cov neeg uas nws txawj ua noj es ua tau tej yam es yus nyiam noj es yus noog nws qhov recipe mas nws ua qhov tsw tsw tsis kam thiab tsis xav qhia rau yus cuag lis yus kawm tau tsam yus ho yuav coj mus ua muag ces yus ho npluaj nuj lawm thiab. Kuv mas zoo siab tshaj plaws hais zaum no kuv tsis care yuav mus thov vov neeg zoo lis ntawm ib zaug ntxiv lawm vim twb muaj koj tus siab dawb siab zoo nyob qhov nov qhia rau kuv lawm mas kuv zoo siab heev li es ua koj tsaug ntau ntau nawb tus niam hluas. I can not wait to try them all...and to impress all of my friens!!! Now my husband is going to think something is wrong with me bc of all these new dishes lolNiam Tub 

Thank you for your comment! I am not that good at writing in moob, so I will write in english if that's okay with you! I can speak moob ntsuab but my spelling and grammar in moob ntsuab is not fluent. I can speak hmoob dawb too but I sound stiff and unnatural. The reason I started sharing recipes is for that same reason you stated. I wanted to learn and people I ask for help kept refusing to teach me. It made me want to start sharing recipes so that everyone can learn.I hope it will help you and  your loved ones! Thank you for your support!

I'm not usually a fan of steamed rice cake but this version is extremely yummy. My mother in law loves steamed rice cake and so I decided to make this for her and she's been raving about it ever since. My first batch I used the whole 1.75 cups of sugar and I love how delicious that was. The unfortnate thing was that I didn't look at your video and had a steaming nightmare. I used a pie pan and had it sit on top of the steamer thus it only steamed the bottom half. It was still good except for the undercook top. My second batch I used mini tart pans and silicone molds and that turned out much better. More due to laziness on my end, I only use 1.5 cups of sugar and I could definitely taste the difference. This is such an easy recipe. Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to more recipes from you.

Thanks for your comment! Glad your MIL enjoyed it! I like cooking because it's rewarding to share food with family and friends. Nothing tastes better than eating, talking, and sharing with the people you love!

I really like ur recipes.. thanks for posting them up.. keep it up..

You are welcome!

Thanks so much for the recipe!  Can't wait to try it!!  Do you know how to make Chinese donuts or patongo?  Also Cream Puffs?:)

Mmm I love chinese donuts! :-)

i tried this the other day and it was really good! better than the ones at the store. thanks for sharing.

That's great! So happy that it turned out for you and that you liked it!

Tus niam laus aww ua koj tsaug os uas koj tseem shared koj li recipe pub rau peb sawv daws thiab. I will try to make this recipe this weekend.

Great! Please do let me know how it turns out for you!

Kuv ua tau tabsis qab yeast mi ntsis lawm na.

Yes it was a fermented taste.

Hi,you mentioned "Close lid, set aside for 5 - 10 hours (or overnight).  The batter will rise and fall.  The longer you keep it in the container, the stronger the flavor." What flavor will become stronger?

The fermentation flavor will be stronger.

and what does the fermentation flavor smell like? is it supposed to be sour-y smell?

Yes, it will smell like rice wine a little.  Think of beer and that yeast smell but sweeter.

I also would like to ask, the mixture outcome of Step #1, will it be a liquid-y batter or a dough?- thanks

When mixing it will be like pancake batter. When it rests for hours, it will become thick and dense.

why add the 1 TBSP of sugar in step #1?

The sugar reacts with the yeast. It starts the fermentation process. Think of a chemical reaction.

Thanks for sharing your recipe.  It turned out great for me.  Do u know if the recipe for the chinese version is similar?  I heard that you just add water instead of coconut milk?  Have you tried and how the taste is different?  Thanks, CT.

The chinese version is made slightly different than this version.

Hi Annie,I've already completed step 1 three times but I'm not getting the same play dough texture. It's more on the running liquid side. Any idea what could be causing this?Thank you.

Can you tell me what you are doing? Are your measurements like mine? When you mix it, it should be like a thick pancake batter. Then after it rests for about 5 hours, it should be more solid, but it's still soft.

Hi, I've made it this morning, as I never ate this before, I don't know what the texture is supposed to be like. Mine turned out to be a tad hard in the middle. Is that how it's supposed to be? - thanks

Hi Sheri, it is supposed to be soft all over.  It should not be hard in the middle. The texture should be kind of like a sponge.

hi annie. you do such wonderful job at posting and making all these food. lol..keep up the good work. 

Thank you Der!!!!

Hey Annie, I'm trying your recipe tonight. For the coconut, can they be the regular green coconut that I get from the Asian market? Not the nam vam coconut right? Help!

You can use any coconut milk.  Dessert coconut milk is not as good but I've made it with that before.  You want to use the coconut milk that is really thick.

I attempted your recipe tonight. I was excite and was actually quite proud because I didn't think I would be able to master it like you but I did! & it's delicious! Sad thing was that, the green ones didn't turn out so good :( I don't know what I did wrong. I steamed them for 20 min, took them out and they were extremely soggy. Do you know why?

Your steamer probably built up a lot of condensation under the lid.  It usually makes the top of the cake soggy if it does. Next time, try using a cheesecloth to cover the top tightly or use cheesecloth around the edges of the lid to capture some of that moisture. Also, try to steam for less time.

Hi Annie,I made the steamed rice cakes for my brother's graduation celebration a couple of weeks ago... and it turned out great! Everyone loved it. Thanks for sharing your recipes. I'll be trying out your other recipes.

Yay! This is great news! :-) Glad you enjoyed it!

I love your receipt Annie! Thank you so much for sharing all your receipt.  I haven't try making it but i surely will once I have time.  Please keep all your wonderful receipt on your website.Thanks Kris


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