In Vietnamese cuisine, just as in many other types of cuisines, the use of banana leaves in cooking dates back centuries. Back when there was no aluminum foil, parchment paper or wax paper, the thick leaves were what cooks used to pack, steam, grill, bake and serve their food. Isn't that a smart, eco-friendly way to make good use of biodegradable, natural materials? Plus, the banana leaves give awondderful additional aroma to the food. If you ever visit Vietnam, you'll notice how commonly food is wrapped in banana leaves. Bánh giò is no exception, and it's one of my favorite Vietnamese street foods.
Bánh giò is a steamed rice cake, often filled with meat. This time, I filled them with ground chicken (a more authentic version would use pork). In any case, the meat is cooked with wood ear mushrooms. It's not the prettiest meal, but it's a flavorful, earthy (thanks to the mushrooms), light, gluten-free dish.
The key to achieving the perfect texture is to add a bit of cornstarch to the rice flour to firm up the dough, then flavor it with warm chicken broth and cook it on the stove before shaping the rice cakes.