It just occured to me as I was about to write this column that this year has almost come to an the end. It seems that the older you get, the quicker time seems to pass by than when you were young. Perhaps because it is due to expectation or anticipation that makes us evaluate time differently.
Banh cuon (rice noodle roll or rolled cake) is the Vietnamese equivalent to the Chinese cheong fun, or the khao phan from Thailand. Banh cuon originated from Northern Vietnam and is comprised of rice batter with a hint of fermentation, ground pork, wood ear mushrooms, water chestnut and shallot.
Banh cuon is soft, thin and delicate. The rice batter is steamed over a stretched muslin cloth spread evenly on top of a boiling pot. Once the batter takes shape the pork mixture is added in the center and is quickly folded into a roll. Looks easy enough but it is extremely hard to make and take lots of practice to master this technique.
This dish is popular amongst Vietnamese and normally served for breakfast because it is quite light. However, I’ve often noticed it is also served in late night food stalls as a detox for hangovers. Banh cuon is often served with sides of steamed bean sprouts, sliced cucumber, basil, cha lua (Vietnamese pork sausage), cha chien (Vietnamese fried ham) and nuoc cham (marinated fish sauce).
Here are some popular banh cuon locations to visit.
Banh Cuon Tay Ho (2 locations)
127 Dinh Thien Hoang Street
Dakao Ward, District 1
Telephone 848 38200584
Open 7am to 11pm
271 Phan Xich Long Street
Ward 2, Phu Nhuan District
Telephone 848 39951179
Banh Cuon Thien Huong (2 locations)
Specialty is the banh cuon trung (with an egg added to the batter)
179A 3 Thang 2 Street
Telephone 848 38323396
155 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai
Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1
Telephone 848 39255567
Open 6am to 12pm and 4pm to 10pm
Banh Cuon Hong Hanh
17A Nguyen Thi Minh Khai
Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
Telephone 848 38274252
Open 8am to 10pm
Tristan Ngo is the chef, patron and owner of Skewers Restaurant and The Elbow Room.