This is the second blog post in our “A Taste of LATRO” series. 

LATRO continues to celebrate the diversity of our team members, and one of the core values that drives us is the ability to thrive in a multi-cultural global marketplace. When LATRO was birthed more than a decade ago, we had only two employees in the US. Today, we have over 40 employees across eight countries. This blog series will give you a glimpse into our diversity, which we see as one of our most valuable strengths as a company.  

While we are all still confined to our homes to varying degrees because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Lead Analyst, Meghan Hardy-James, will take you along to meet with her various colleagues here at LATRO as they introduce her (and you!) to unique dishes in their kitchens. This #atasteoflatro journey will highlight our team members’ global backgrounds and traditional dishes.  Grab an apron and enjoy!  

In continuing with our A Taste of LATRO blog series, our next recipe is from Antoni Nam Hoai Dao, LATRO’s VP of Sales for Southeast Asia. His Vietnamese recipe is the traditional and very delicious Bánh chưng.  

Antoni Nam Hoai Dao – Vietnamese  

Antoni was born into the rich traditional culture of the Red River Delta1 and Confucianism strongly influenced his family. In addition, both his parents and grandparents were teachers, so it was no surprise that Antoni’s family encouraged him to study mathematics.  

However, Antoni soon switched to the Hanoi University of Science and Technology to become a Telecom Engineer instead. During this time, the telecom industry was booming as new technology evolved from Analog to Digital and 2G GSM Networks were deployed worldwide. As a result, many other graduates had a similar Telecom focused education like Antoni. Just as the ancient Vietnamese people identified new foods to eat for survival during war times, Antoni explored additional skill sets to help him thrive in the competitive telecom industry. He began learning different sales skills and techniques. Antoni joined LATRO in June 2017 and is our VP of Sales for Southeast Asia.   

Bánhchưng – Across Vietnam, the most important time of year is the Tết festival2 or Lunar New Year, which usually falls between January and February. When Antoni was a child, he could always tell when Tết was nearing because his parents or grandparents would begin preparing Bánh chưng. This traditional dish is comprised of a rice cake which is made of a mixture of rice, mung beans, pork, and other local market ingredients.  

The dish was originally created by Lang Liêu, a prince of the last sixth Hùng Dynasty. When the monarch was choosing the next successor from among his sons, he held a competition during the Tết festival to determine the most delicious dish that best represented their ancestors. Since Lang Liêu was the poorest son, he was forced to use common ingredients like rice and pork. He won the competition by creating Bánh chưng with one square cake to represent the earth, and one round cake to represent the sky3.    

Bánh chưng Recipe

INGREDIENTS

1 3/4 cups sticky (glutinous) rice, preferably long-grain
1 drop of green food coloring (optional)
1/4 cup dried split mung beans
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
5 ounces pork shoulder or butt, cut into 1/4-inch-thick chunks
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 (14″ x 16″) sheets plastic wrap plus extra
1 (14″ x 16″) sheet aluminum foil
2 (14″ x 14″) pieces banana leaf

  1. Place the sticky rice in a large bowl and cover it with 3 inches of water. Stir in the food coloring, if using, and let the rice soak overnight. (Once soaked, the rice will double to about 4 cups.) In a separate bowl, soak the mung beans for at least 4 hours. Drain both just before using and set aside in separate bowls. Add the salt to the rice and stir to blend.
  2. Combine the shallots, fish sauce, black pepper and pork pieces and let marinate for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan over moderate heat. Add the pork pieces and all the marinade and stir just until the meat is brown around the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
  4. Using a steamer basket, steam the mung beans until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. To make the packet, neatly lay down the wrappers in this order: 1 sheet of plastic wrap (leave the other for use later), the aluminum foil, 2 sheets banana leaves (one perpendicular to the other). Place one cup of the rice in the center of the banana leaf, spreading it to cover a 5-inch square. Place half of the mung beans on top, then add the pork pieces. Cover with the remaining mung beans and place 1 cup of rice on top. Bring the narrow sides of the wrappers together. Fold the gathered edges over twice, then flatten against the packet. (You now have two open ends.) Fold one end over and hold the packet upright. Add half of the remaining rice, tapping it and pushing it down so the packet will be an even square. Fold the end over and repeat on the other side.
  6. Place the packet with the folded sides down in the center of the remaining plastic sheet. Wrap tightly so that water will not seep into the packet during cooking.
  7. Tightly tie the packet with two parallel strings in both directions (as in a tic-tac-toe pattern).
  8. Fill a large stockpot with water. Add the packet and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Place a colander or something heavy on top of the packet to keep it submerged in the water. Cook uncovered until done, about 6 hours, adding more water if necessary. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 1 hour.
  9. To serve, cut the packet (without unwrapping) into 1/2-inch slices. Remove the wrapping and arrange the slices on a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. If wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, the cake will keep for 1 week. Thưởng thức!
Bánh chưng Recipe on "Taste of LATRO" blog series

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[1] https://www.vietnam-briefing.com/news/regional-spotlight-red-river-delta-hanoi.html/
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%E1%BA%BFt
[3]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A1nh_ch%C6%B0ng

This is the second blog post in our “A Taste of LATRO” series. Click here to read the first post