Imagine a silken blanket of rice flour enveloping a fragrant treasure of savory filling. This is the exquisite culinary masterpiece that is Bánh Cuốn, a Vietnamese dish that artfully combines delicate textures with a medley of flavors that dance on your palate. Much more than a simple meal, Bánh Cuốn is a loving testament to the rich tapestry of Vietnamese history, culture, and culinary ingenuity.
Join us on an enticing journey as we explore the origins of this cherished dish, tracing its roots from the bustling streets of Hanoi to the serene landscapes of Vietnam’s countryside. We’ll uncover the secrets of Bánh Cuốn’s enticing flavor profiles, while revealing the mastery behind its creation. Along the way, we’ll also share tips and techniques to help you recreate this gastronomic delight in your own home. So, prepare to be enchanted as we embark on a sensory voyage into the enchanting world of Bánh Cuốn—a true Vietnamese treasure.
What is Banh Cuon
A predominant dish in the North. Bánh cuốn (rolling cake) is a freshly eaten steamed rice batter delicately rolled with wood ear mushroom, jicama, minced pork, and topped with fried shallots.
The rolls are often enjoyed with raw veggies such as sliced cucumber, bean sprouts, chopped lettuce, and other herbs. The rolls are often served with the fish dipping sauce (nước chấm) and sometimes as the dish is accompanied with a lime-based sauce. Side dish served with the rice rolls is the Vietnamese pork sausage (chả lụa).
The Bánh cuốn might sound easy to make but it is a dish that puts certain skills to the test, one of them is the ability to roll a good sheet of the fermented rice batter. This rice rolls must be translucent and appear as thin as possible.
It is often seen in different shapes and sizes, each method depicting the culture and region within which it was prepared. These differences can also be noted in the diversity of taste and recipes used.
Banh Cuon Origin and Curiosities
Although the origin of Bánh cuốn is said to be in the provinces of Northern Vietnam, there are also beliefs that the Chinese played a role in its origination. The belief backed by the fact that the Chinese Noodle Rolls (Cheung) in the 18th Hung Vuong era, was taken into the Vietnamese culture. Given as a gift during the Tet holiday and has since then taken different variations, spreading beyond Vietnam.
However, the fact that the exact date of its origination is unknown, and thus, the dish might have been in existence for years is undisputed. Just like most cultures, the history linked to the dish has it that in 300BC (rough estimate) during the Prince An Quoc’s era, some Vietnamese migrated.
They occupied the Northern province, Thanh Tri (called Hanoi today), and cultivated rice, and with that came various delicacies from their harvest. Among these delicacies is the Bánh cuốn.
Banh Cuon Vs Banh Uot
Bánh Cuốn and Bánh Ướt, while seemingly similar in appearance, hold their own distinct charm, highlighting the diverse and creative nature of the culinary landscape.
Bánh Cuốn is a labor of love, requiring skilled hands and a practiced technique to perfect its delicate nature. A thin, translucent rice flour batter is evenly spread over a fabric-covered steamer, resulting in an almost ethereal sheet. The filling—a savory concoction of seasoned minced pork and wood ear mushrooms—is then carefully placed atop the steamed sheet before it is deftly rolled into an elegant parcel.
Bánh Cuốn is traditionally served with accompaniments such as Vietnamese ham (chả lụa), bean sprouts, and cucumbers, adding textural contrast to the dish. The pièce de résistance is a generous drizzle of nước chấm, a fish sauce-based concoction that imparts a harmonious balance of salty, sweet, and tangy flavors.
On the other hand, Bánh Ướt holds a different allure, deriving its name from the Vietnamese word for “wet.” This dish features thicker, slick sheets of steamed rice flour, which are then cut and served flat, often layered atop a plate. While Bánh Ướt’s appearance may be more straightforward, its beauty lies in the versatility of its accompaniments.
Diners may find the dish served with an array of proteins such as succulent grilled pork, crispy shrimp cakes, or even aromatic fried shallots, creating a symphony of flavors and textures with each bite. The magic of Bánh Ướt comes alive with the addition of herbs like mint and basil, and a dipping sauce that melds the diverse components into a cohesive culinary experience.
Despite their similarities in using rice flour and the steaming process, Bánh Cuốn and Bánh Ướt each possess their own unique character that represents the ingenuity and artistry of Vietnamese cuisine. These dishes not only showcase the versatility of a single ingredient but also invite diners to explore and appreciate the myriad of flavors, textures, and traditions that make Vietnamese food so captivating.
Banh Cuon Recipe
- Preparation time: 12 hours
- Cooking time: 15 min
- Total preparation time: 12 hours 20 min.
- Servings: 5 to 6
- 1 cup potato starch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups of rice flour
- 1/2 cup tapioca starch
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
P.S: If a bag of Banh Cuon is within reach at a store, you can go for that and just follow the instructions on the pack to prepare your batter.
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 small jicama (peeled then diced)
- 2 teaspoons mushroom or chicken bouillon stock powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 small onion (diced)
- 1 cup dried Wood Ear mushroom (soaked, drained and minced)
Note: The pork can be replaced with chicken, based on your preference.
- 1 bag bean sprouts (steam or blanch)
- 4-5 cucumbers (semi-peel then julienne)
- Scallion oil
- Vietnamese sausage (Chả Lụa)
- Fried shallots
- Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce (Nước Mắm Chấm)
Before, starting it is important you have a good non-stick frying pan. It will go a long way in saving your delicate rice flour so that when you have applied the oil you’ll be steaming not frying.
- In preparing the rice batter, add on the listed ingredients into a large mix bowl and stir for a smooth texture.
- Prepare a marinade of your ground pork with pepper, salt, and sugar.
- Using a large skillet on medium heat, heat the vegetable oil for 30 seconds and then add the onion and garlic and heat for 1-2 minutes till it gives it aroma.
- Add up the minced mushroom with the diced jicama and marinated ground pork.
- Cook the seasoned pork while breaking up its chunks with a spoon.
- Heat a pan using medium-high heat and oil a little (if you are not making use of a non-stick pan, and a good one). Pour a light amount of the prepared batter into the pan, just in the right amount that can cover the bottom of the pan.
- Cover and allow to steam for 60 seconds. Slide the crepe into a scallion oiled plate. Add a thin layer of the prepared pork filling (very thin), and roll the rice sheet up. You can also slather the rolls with scallion oil, to give them a nice look.
- To serve to sprinkle the dish of rice rolls with the Vietnamese pork sausage, cucumbers, bean sprout, and fried shallots. Almost ready to eat, but not without the famous fish dipping sauce (Nước Mắm Chấm).
Banh Cuon Sauce
The Vietnamese fish dipping sauce (Nuoc Man Cham) applies to several Vietnamese dishes, not just rolled rice (Bahn Cuon). Today it can be obtained in stores as a complete sauce, but the taste cannot be compared to the fresh home-made one. The end taste of the sauce is a mix of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy.
- 1 cup of heated water
- 3 tablespoons lime juice (1 fresh lime)
- 3/4 cup fish sauce (Viet Huong’s Three Crabs brand)
- 2 Thai chili peppers with seeds removed (thinly sliced or minced)
- 3/4 cup sugar (granulated)
- 1 cup coconut soda
- 6 garlic cloves (thinly slice or mince with a garlic press)
Dissolve the sugar in the heated water with a mix. Allow cooling for a few minutes. Pour in the remaining ingredients into the warm sugar mix. Time to bring it to your unique taste. If the sauce is too sweet (probably the sugar was much), then add some fish sauce a tablespoon at a time to meet your taste. If you’re ready to serve, then add the minced garlic and chili peppers before serving. Note: If you happen to still have some leftover sauce, no worries. It can be refrigerated for use up to three weeks.
How To Eat Banh Cuon
Although the Bahn coun comes with different fillings, it is prepared for the unique culinary culture of its region. But for whichever filling is used, the Bahn Cuon is always served with the Nuoc mam cham, fish sauce. Bahn Coun is quite often served as Breakfast.
In Hanoi, it is often served as plain sheets without any filling, giving it the name Bahn Cuon Than Tri. There it is eaten with sliced fried shallots (Cha lua) and fish sauce. The central of Vietnam, prefer their Banh Cuon with dry ground shrimp, this form of the Bahn Cuon is called the Banh uot tom chat.
The ground shrimp is often sprinkled over the plain rice sheet or rolled up with the sheet. However, the Southern Vietnamese savor the taste of their Banh Cuon being stuffed with ground pork. Here, they serve the pork-stuffed Bahn Cuon with bean sprouts, cha lua, cucumber, fry shallots, Vietnamese basil, and the fish sauce.
Over time variations derived from the traditionally prepared, Banh Cuon has emerged. So, don’t be surprised with what filling is ordered with Bahn Coun in many restaurants today.
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