Considered a food paradise, Vietnam has lots of mouth-watering specialties to offer to tourists, and banh cuon (Vietnamese steamed rice roll) is one of them. It is often served as a dish for breakfast. Make sure that you don’t miss this dish during your Vietnam travel or you will definitely regret it.
1. The main ingredients of Vietnamese steamed rice roll
Each Vietnamese has their favorite, go-to options for the first meal of the day. While some love a hot bowl of Pho, others are fans of “xoi xeo” (Vietnamese sticky rice), many fancy sitting at a banh cuon stall to kick off their days.
What is this scrumptious Vietnamese food made of? Is Vietnamese rice paper healthy? Absolutely.
Vietnamese steamed rice roll, as its name suggests, is made mainly from rice. Vietnam must be a huge fan of rice, when its many specialties are made from this simple ingredient. The rice used for banh cuon must be of the best quality. It is important to pick the rice that is not too soft or too hard for powdering so that it will not be crushed and milled into powder liquid.
Beside rice flour, many other ingredients are essential to make good “banh cuon”. Depending on each variation of Vietnamese steamed rice roll, the ingredients are different. For Hanoi’s variation, ground pork and mushroom are must-haves. Meanwhile, for “banh cuon” in Cao Bang, the locals will add egg and bone broth. In Nghe An, the rolls do not include any fillings.
2. How to make Vietnamese steamed rice roll?
As mentioned above, there are different variations of Vietnamese steamed rice rolls throughout the country, and the detailed recipe of each variation is different. Below is the basic common process of making Vietnamese steamed rice rolls that most regions apply.
High-quality rice will be soaked in water for 2-3 hours before being put in a traditional gristmill. The Vietnamese believe that steamed rolls made from traditionally milled powder are much more delicious than the ones made by a modern machine. The Vietnamese steamed rice roll mix needs to be ground 2-3 times to make smooth and soft powder.
The mixture of rice flour and water is stored at room temperature for 2-3 hours before the rolling process. At local food stalls, there is always a water pot boiling at 100ºC to make sure it is ready to cook the rolls at any time. A thin layer of rice batter is poured onto a piece of cloth and evenly spread to create a thin coat. The cook needs to be quick because the whole process above lasts just about 3 seconds. Then, they steam the roll and carefully take it out of the cloth. The result should be a thin and almost transparent rice roll.
Often, the cook will add fillings to the roll after it is steamed. In Northern Vietnamese provinces, the fillings of Vietnamese steamed rice roll often consist of pork and mushrooms.
3. The 7 full-flavored variations of Vietnamese steamed rice roll
The steamed rice rolls in each region in Vietnam will give diners different experiences. You might have heard a lot about the variations of “banh cuon” in Thanh Tri, Nam Dinh, and Lang Son. However, these places are not the only ones that provide excellent Vietnamese steamed rice roll. Down below are the top 7 most famous variations of banh cuon in this S-shaped country.
3.1. Thanh Tri steamed rice roll
Thanh Tri, Hanoi, has gained a huge reputation as the cradle of steamed rice roll Vietnamese. The most distinctive feature of this variation is the thin, chewy coat of the roll. The roll is also covered with dried shallots. Thanh Tri steamed rice roll is often served with “cha que” (roasted cinnamon pork) and sweet and sour fish sauce with “ca cuong” - a special spice that brings an irresistible aroma to the dish.
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3.2. Cao Bang steamed rice roll
Different from other kinds of banh cuon, Cao Bang steamed rice roll comes with a bottle of sweet bone broth instead of dipping fish sauce. The fillings usually do not contain wood-ear mushrooms and the cook will not add dried shallots onto the rolls, also. Instead, they will add chopped onions to the broth to make it more aromatic. A dish of Cao Bang steamed rice roll will have egg fillings. It tastes incredibly appetizing when dipped into the bone broth.
3.3. Phu Ly steamed rice roll
Another great variation of Vietnamese steamed rice roll is the one in Phu Ly, Ha Nam. This type of banh cuon is eaten cold with charcoal-grilled meat instead of roasted cinnamon pork. To make this dish, pork belly is cut into bite-sized pieces and marinated with many spices, such as pepper, sugar, fish sauce, etc., before being grilled on charcoal.
3.4. Nghe An steamed rice roll
In central provinces like Nghe An and Ha Tinh, “banh cuon” has another name: “banh muot”. Here, the steamed Vietnamese rolls often contain rice batter only, without any pork or mushroom inside. In Nghe An, the locals often serve “banh muot” with eel soup, another local delicacy. Nghe An steamed rice roll can be served for breakfast or any other meal of the day. It can also replace rice to be served with other dishes like chicken soup.
3.5. Ha Tinh steamed rice roll
Ha Tinh’s “banh muot” is the same as the Nghe An variation. Ha Tinh’s people also enjoy this steamed rice roll with other local dishes in their meal. As a breakfast dish, “banh muot” is often served with “ram” - Ha Tinh’s version of spring rolls. The spring rolls in this central province are exceptionally crispy and eye-catching, thanks to the traditional special wrappings.
To enjoy this dish like a local, wrap the spring rolls with Vietnamese steamed rice roll and dip it into dipping fish sauce. You can also enjoy “banh muot” with “gio lua” (lean pork paste) and sprinkle on some fried shallots to enhance the flavors.
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3.6. Thanh Hoa steamed rice roll
This variation features a thin soft rice roll with shrimp and pork fillings. Thanh Hoa steamed rice roll is often served with spicy fish sauce. Similar to Nghe An’s “banh muot”, this rice roll is also steamed with fillings to be served with eel soup.
3.7. Sai Gon steamed rice roll
Saigon steamed rice roll originated from Northern Vietnam, with some changes made to make this dish more suitable to the taste of the Southern people. The most distinctive feature you might find is the sweeter dipping sauce. In addition, there is another variation of Vietnamese steamed rice roll in Saigon - the Chinese-style version, of which rice batter will be steamed solely without any fillings.
Besides, you can find tasty Vietnamese steamed rice rolls in Lang Son, Nam Dinh, Ha Giang, Thai Nguyen, Hung Yen, Quang Ninh, the Mekong Delta provinces, etc. Each variation will offer you a different taste. For example, Quang Ninh’s banh cuon has hand-ground squid sausage (cha muc) - a reputable Ha Long specialty. It is hard to describe the highlight of each Vietnamese steamed rice roll variation in just one article, so if you have the chance, visit these places to give them a try!
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Most Vietnamese delicacies are made delicately and “banh cuon” (Vietnamese steamed rice roll) is not an exception. Don’t forget to try this special food during your Vietnam trip. Who knows, it might become your go-to dish for your first meal of the day!