Most first-generation Vietnamese kids would remember bánh tiêu as a weekend treat, sold exclusively at the local Asian supermarket. Unassumedly spread on a melamine serving tray, and covered with a single loose sheet of cling wrap to keep the loitering flies away, they quickly went out the door at $1.50 a piece, and made for the most satisfying drive home. A just reward for spending your morning in the hustle and chaos of the market’s busiest trading days. For most, enjoying a bánh tiêu on the journey home was an experience comparable these days to surviving a Bunnings trip on a busy Sunday morning with a snag or two in hand.
For the traditionalist, white spelt flour in this recipe is foreign but for me, transforms the iconic bánh tiêu into a lighter and fluffier pocket of pastry. For those not familiar with white spelt flour, it is a great alternative to plain or all-purpose flour. The proofing of the dough is critical in highlighting bánh tiêu’s defining appearance.. If the dough is not proofed enough, the bánh tiêu will be completely hollow on the inside, and lack key fibrous textures. The perfect bánh tiêu is deep-fried and golden on the outside, needs to slightly hollow and have a honeycomb-like structure on the inside. and deep-fried golden on the outside.
Bánh tiêu is defined by its texture and similar to bánh mi (Vietnamese bread roll),depends heavily on having a well equilibrated balance between the giòn (Crispy) and dai (Chewy). Its flavours are subtle, slightly savoury, and sweet with a hint of vanilla.
Bánh tiêu can be enjoyed by themselves or accompanied with other Vietnamese classics. A delicious snack I enjoyed on the streets of Saigon was bánh tiêu stuffed with bánh bò (steamed rice cakes). Like hot chips in a sandwich with tomato sauce. It’s a strange combination that you need to try for yourself before being convinced. If the subtle flavours in Chinese donuts or red bean sesame balls suit your palate, fry up some bánh tiêu and do yourself a favour for flavour!
1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons condensed milk
1½ teaspoon vanilla sugar
150g bread or pizza flour
250g white Spelt flour/plain flour, and some extra for dusting work surface
2g sea salt
15g baking powder
1½ teaspoon of vegetable oil
Neutral oil for deep frying
In a small bowl, add sugar, yeast, and lukewarm water and stir well.
Cover with cling wrap or beeswax wrap and set aside for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, add condensed milk and vanilla extract/vanilla sugar to the yeast mixture and mix well.
In a large bowl, add all the dry ingredients and mix well.
Add the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
Cover with cling wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add oil to the dough, and kneed for 1-2 minutes then re-cover the bowl with your wrap, and allow to proof in a cool dry place overnight.
Rolling and making the donut:
Sprinkle flour on your working surface and split the dough into 12-14 even pieces, slightly larger than the size of a golf ball.
With each piece, first flatten the dough with your hands, then turn the dough inwards and pinch together to shape into a hollow ball.
Add sesame seeds in a small bowl, and roll each ball of dough in the bowl to coat each piece. Refrigerate for 1 hour to relax the gluten.
After an hour, heat oil to 190°C.
Add more flour to your work surface and with a rolling pin roll the dough out into 10cm-12cm diameter rounds with a 3mm thickness. Complete the same process with the remaining pieces.
Place the flattened donut into the oil, when the donut floats to the top, continuously flip on both sides to fry evenly.
Once golden, remove and place on a cooling rack. Fry remaining donuts and ensure the oil is at 190°C each time prior to frying each donut.