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 for your comment. Good luck!

Nyob zoo os tus sister Annie! Thank you for sharing your recipes. I tried the Long Cheng Bread this past weekend. It was a total success!! My son had a blast helping me. My whole family LOVED it. Today, I will make the Steamed Rice Cake. Thank you for your generosity of teaching me, a "Niam Tsev," to become a better cook. Thank you and God Bless!

Thank you so much for commenting. I'm happy that the family loved it! I hope that you are able to share this recipe with your loved ones and have fun cooking together! That's the best treat!

So excited! I tried making this with a bag of flour that was packaged especially for this and it wasn't a good turn out so I finally gave this a try and boy, I'm super happy! Ty!

Hi Mary, oh that is awesome!!!!! Glad it worked out for you!

thanks for the recipe finally im on step 3 steaming it. cant wait how it turn out. started around 2 pm. i'll let you know how it turns out. can you do the asian corn ncua (what ever how you spell that) its those corn sticky thingy not a type of bread but sticky and gooey. hopefully you get what i mean. i been wanting to learn how to do it. but some hmong people are too greedy to tell me how to make it. thanks. 

Hi! The corn recipe you are referring to is pretty easy. It's just glutinous rice flower (the one with the green lettering), sugar, and grated sweet corn. Yes, that's it.  The amount of flour depends on how much corn you want to add in. I'll do a quick tutorial on this soon. I love eating those in the summer time when sweet corn is in season! 

Can't wait to see the tutorial on this corn recipe. im in a hurry to try it and eat it. The stream rice cake was delicious. i love it and it turn out great. i always come back on youtube and this page to check if you have done the corn thingy. i love your food thanks for sharing your the best.

In the ingredents part you wrote 1 tbsp sugar & you also put down 1 3/4 cup of sugar. I'm not quite sure cause thats knida confused me can you please clarify that for me please. Thank you!  

The 1 tbsp sugar is for the first part of the recipe. The 1 3/4 cup is for the second half of the recipe.

Im going to try banh bo this weekend for my husband.  You didn't say the number of serving you get from your recipe.  If the cakes are about 3 inches round.  how many makes a serving and how many 'round' should i expect from your recipe?

Depending on how thick you make your cake, it can be 1 to 3 pie pans.  Usually I do 2.

Hi AnnieThank You so much for sharing! ! ! So many people don't like to share and I've been wanting this recipe for so long! I do have one question do you butter the pan or spray it with anything cause some people use it?And do you know how to make this one desert it's sticky rice and it has like shredded coconut on it. I'm not too sure if you'll understand what I'm trying to describe but I had it once and it was at a party and I couldn't get the recipe. And do you know how to make the sticky rice wrapped in banana leaf with banana. Thank You! ! ! -

I don't spray my pans. The coconut milk is pretty oily. I usually place the pan or molds in the freezer to cool. Once it is cold, I remove it with ease.  Try this helpful tip!

Thank you so much for showing this on the internet. I have tried to ask so many people about how to make this steam rice cake. All I got from them was it's really easy and I will give you the reciepe. Thats the last I hear from them. But now I can make it and it's so easy all it takes is time. Thank you very much for your show.Mandy

Glad to help!

The recipe is wonderful however when steaming, it deflates by the time i take it out of the steamer. Any suggestions?

It will deflate some after you take it out of the steamer.  If it is deflating more than half then something may be wrong. 

It was a success!! Thank you for sharing the recipe!


Hi Annie,
I followed your recipe and was wondering if I was supposed to use the whole bag of rice flour because when I did it turned pinto be like dough. Am I supposed to use the whole bag or only some ?

Yes. Make sure your water is 2 cups.

Hi Annie,I tried a fews recipes of making this cake, but yours is the best.But 1 of my pan of cake dosen't look like a sponge inside. Please let me know why? Thanks a lot. Hanh

Make sure your mold or pan is super hot before pouring in the batter. This helps it cook faster and gives it the nice honeycombs.

Thank you so much for posting the helpful video on youtube. I do not speak any language but english but I love these cakes. Your video was helpful and I noticed that you eve3n answered the questions that readers posted. Your effert is appriciated.

I try to answer all comments when I can. :-)

I would like to make this for a party for a 100 people.  Can I make this a day before? How can I perserve the freshness and softness of the rice cake?

Yes.  Make sure you cover them individually and place them at room temperature.  They will get hard if you leave them in the fridge uncovered.  It's recommended that you eat these the same day you make them so they don't taste fermented.  If you are making for 100 people and want to make them the same day, I suggest using instant yeast instead of regular yeast.  It will save you tons of time and you can let the batter rise for about 1 hour and then steam. You may need to run a few steamers at once if you want to finish on time. Otherwise, yes you can make them the night before. 

Can I use sweet rice flour? I have sweet rice flour and that I need to get rid of, but if I have to I'll go but some regular rice flour.

Hey Annie,I tried making your steam rice cake and it turned out perfectly!  It was delicious.  But I want to know why the texture is different from the ones that we buy from the store.  The ones I made using your recipe is more soft and moist compared to the ones at the hmong store which is more dense, not as moist, and less spongy.  Is there another way to make it or another added ingredient to the ones that they make at the hmong store?  I love this one though.  I'm just curious!  Thanks

 Nyob zoo koj os tus viv ncaus Annie, koj ua tau zoo heev li lawm, thov qhua koj thiab ua koj tsaug ntau ntau... Tiam sis xav kom koj hais lus hmoob thiab sau ntawv hmoob ,vim txhua cov hmoob nyob thoob qab ntuj no paub lus english tsis tag os, peb cov nyob rau fab kis teb no los kuj tsis paub...Ua tsaug ntau ntau rau koj txoj kev txawj qhuab qhia neeg ua noj 

Hi Annie! I want to try the recipe, but I don't have a steamer pot at home. Are there any other ways to steam it?

Thank you for sharing your ncuac sawv recipe.  I love love this dessert and never knew how to make it. I crave for it like a pregnant woman.  Whenever I travel to St Paul, MN I buy  a couple of packs from Hmong Town or Hmong Village to eat all for myself.  I can't wait to try this recipe out. Keep up the wonderful work and best wishes in your endeavors.  Thanks, again!

I like your video thanks for teaching

Thanks Annie for this recipe.  My daughter loves steamed rice cake but I do not know how to make it and it seemed complicated.  But looking at your tutorial, it seems doable.  I will bookmark this page and try it when I have time.  It take a great person with a generious heart to share and do what you are doing.  There are others who guard their recipes like a big secret and most of the times for selfish reasons.  If you have a paper cookbook, I would definitely buy one.  Keep up the good work and may God bless you.

Hi Annie, question?  When I was a little girl, my mom would always buy us some of these steamed cakes from the Asian store (Vietnamese) along with the cakes they also had a sweet dip with it that we would dip the cakes it.  It is a white semi sweet with a semi thick consistency.  It also had sesame seeds we would pour into dip before dipping the cakes into.  Do you have any idea what that could've been?  Thanks.

thank you for sharing all these wonderful recipe... Keep up the good work!

My daughter and I made this using your recipe and it was a success.  My whole family loved and I  also like it better than the store bought one.  Now I just gotta find the recipe for the dip.  Thanks for sharing Annie.  God bless you.

I had these 20 years ago in Hawaii at an outdoor market. I would go a few days a week and hope they had not sold out. No one was able to tell me the name or the recipe. I can not wait to try and make these and experience the wonderful taste again.

Im so sad... i did everything u did...and steamed my cake for 3 hours and its still uncooked... the bottom and the sides are okbut the top its still like liquid but more thick... i dont know what i did wrong...

Can you make this with glutinous rice flour? 

I forgot if it's glutinous or just plain old rice flour for these steamed cakes? Zong

Hi Annie- thanks for sharing. How come my cakes seem to deflate after I take it out of the freezer? Taste just fine but it just doesn't look pretty like yours. Suggestions?

With the yeast that you used in the video, do I have to wait 5-10 hours or can I wait only 1 hour?

I try to make it. My granddaughter will surely love it.thanks for the recipe.

I never knew there was a difference between powdered sugar and fine sugar. I always thought both were the same and I always used powdered sugar instead of fine one. Sorry I know this now.  

Hi Annie, I love all your recipes! I see people adding tapioca starch to their recipe when making steamed rice cake, so I was just wondering if adding tapioca starch to it would make any difference or not? If it does do you know how much of tapioca starch to add to it?

I've tried it with tapioca before.  When I make it with no coconut milk and only water, I use about 2 tbsp of tapioca starch.  The tapioca helps it become more firm.

Thank you for the recipe. Your mom at work shared some with me and it was great

Hi Annie,Can I substitute the coconut milk with water to make the Chinese version or is there another recipe for that? Thanks! 


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