Ho Chi Minh City is widely known as a Vietnamese street food paradise with a variety of Vietnamese rice-based dishes in which Banh cuon is always a top favorite specialty. It would be incomplete not to try these Vietnamese steamed rice rolls when traveling to Ho Chi Minh City.
What is Banh Cuon?
Vietnamese Steamed Rice Roll, or Banh Cuon, is a traditional Vietnamese dish that is considered a healthy balance of Asian ingredients. Being made from thin sheets of steamed rice batter, Banh cuon is often filled with a flavorful mixture of cooked ground pork, minced wood ear mushrooms, and shallots. The rice rolls are served with fried shallots, a special dipping fish sauce, slices of Vietnamese pork sausage, sliced cucumbers, blanched bean sprouts, and some Vietnamese herbs.
The Origin of Banh Cuon
Being originated from Northern Vietnam, Banh cuon is believed to have been around since rice farming in Vietnam started. It was a plain rice sheet rolled and dipped in fish sauce, but later it was filled with ingredients like meat and vegetable, and ever since, has become increasingly popular over the years. You can also see the dish in some other Asia countries like China and Thailand, but the sauces and fillings are different. This light and flavorful dish is always a top favorite Vietnamese breakfast, as well as an outstanding star in the menu of traditional Vietnamese foods that have been made and served to many visitors from all over the world.
How to Make Banh Cuon
Vietnamese steamed rice roll is generally made from two main ingredients including the rice sheet with filling and a special fish sauce.
The rice sheets are traditionally made by using a steamer in which a fabric sheet covers a pot of boiling water. All you need to do is pour the batter over the top of this fabric, spreading a thin layer, and cover it with a lid for about 15-30 seconds. This method not only allows the hot steam released from the boiling water to cook the rice flour for a short time but also makes it possible for the rice sheets to remain moist and delicate. The cooked rice sheets will be placed on a large tray, ready for the next steps – filling and rolling. Eggs could be added to the rice mixture to create a version of Banh cuon called Banh cuon trung. The egg will not only bring a bit of creamy flavor but also thicken the rice sheets a little bit.
Steamed rice roll with egg (banh cuon trung)
As mentioned earlier, the inside of Banh cuon is a mixture of ground pork, minced wood ear mushrooms, and shallots. This filling can be slightly different depending on the region and the cook’s creativity. The seasoning of the pork before cooking and the mixture when stir-frying are important to make a flavorful steamed rice roll. The spices that are usually used are salt, pepper, and fish sauce.
The fish sauce is diluted, and customers would mix in their own chilies to their liking
The most important ingredient of a Banh cuon dish must be the special fish sauce, bringing this kind of Vietnamese street food to completion. This special sauce is a flavorful combination of fish sauce, warm water, minced chili and garlic, little sugar, and a small amount of vinegar or lemon juice. It is the typical fish sauce of many Vietnamese foods like Banh xeo, Bun thit nuong, Bi cuon, and even Com tam. Depending on the dishes, the flavor of this fish sauce mixture like sour, sweet, or salty will be adjusted to balance with other ingredients. In Banh cuon, the fish sauce is a bit sweet and salty.
In some places, they will add a type of fried dough mixed with mung beans to create a crunchy texture, beautifully contrasting with the soft and moist Banh cuon. Finally, the blanched bean sprout, sliced cucumber, herbs, and two types of pork sausage are put on top along with the fragrant and crunchy fried shallot.
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Where to Eat Banh Cuon in Ho Chi Minh City
Saigon is known as a paradise of Vietnamese street food. There are a great number of food stalls selling steamed rice rolls in Ho Chi Minh City at reasonable prices. Here are some suggestions for the best Banh cuon in Saigon.
1. Banh Cuon Hai Nam
Address: 11A Cao Thang, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening Hours: 7:30 AM – 9 PM
Price: VND 50,000 to VND 55,000
Being one of the oldest restaurants selling steamed rice rolls in Saigon, Banh Cuon Hai Nam is famous for the unique Banh cuon filling which is a tasty savory mixture of cooked ground shrimp, pork, and mushrooms. A Banh cuon dish served in Hai Nam restaurant is fairly simple with steamed rolls, crispy fried shallot, blanched bean sprouts salad, and dipping fish sauce. The price here is pretty higher than the average price of steamed rice rolls in Ho Chi Minh City which often varies from VND 15,000 to VND 25,000. However, Hai Nam’s steamed rice roll is a worth-tasting version of Banh cuon due to its distinctive flavor.
2. Banh Cuon Nho
Address: 353 Le Van Sy, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening Hours: 6 AM – 1 PM and 4:30 PM to 10 PM
Price: VND 25,000 – VND 45,000
The specialty of this restaurant is Banh cuon with eggs which is a creative version of Vietnamese steamed rolls. A thin layer of golden egg covering the rice sheet is likely to add vibrant color and extra flavor to the traditional Banh cuon. However, you can still easily find the traditional taste of Banh cuon in Northern Vietnam in a steamed rice rolls dish at Banh Cuon Nho restaurant.
3. Banh Cuon Tay Ho
Address: 127 Dinh Tien Hoang, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening Hours: 7 AM – 11 PM
Price: VND 35,000 – VND 60,000
Banh Cuon Tay Ho is a Hanoi-style Vietnamese steamed rice roll. Being one of the oldest Banh cuon restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City besides Banh Cuon Hai Nam, the steamed rice roll dish here is well-known for its unique and tasty ground pork filling and savory fish sauce.
4. Banh Cuon 150 Nguyen Trai
Address: Alley 150 Nguyen Trai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening Hours: 5:30 AM – 0 AM
Price: VND 25,000
Unlike those restaurants mentioned above, Banh Cuon 150 Nguyen Trai is a food stall owned by an old woman who is over 90 years old. Despite the limitation of space, her stall is always crowded. The Banh cuon here has a typical style of South Vietnam with outstanding sweet fish sauce, delicate rice rolls, and fresh vegetables included.
Summary of Banh Cuon in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is a heaven of street food in which Banh cuon or Vietnamese steamed rice rolls is one of the most flavorful traditional dishes. Trying Banh cuon in Ho Chi Minh City, you will definitely fall in love with these steamed rice rolls due to its variety of versions and a good balance of flavors.