Have you ever come to a Vietnamese restaurant and noticed a stack of translucent, round, and thin paper pieces? They are called Vietnamese rice paper wrappers. Modest as they may seem, the method of making rice paper can be considered as an art that can only be performed by experienced people. Banh Trang has entered many Vietnamese dishes, both traditional and contemporary, and enhances the delectation of local cuisine.
What is Vietnamese Rice Paper Wrappers
During your food tour in Vietnam, there are high chances that you have tried Bánh Tráng – Vietnamese rice paper wrappers. They are widely served from street stalls to luxurious restaurants as an indispensable side dish or even main ingredients in lots of recipes.
How Vietnamese rice paper wrappers look like
The most common ingredients to make Vietnamese rice paper wrappers are rice flour, water, a little bit of tapioca flour, and some seasonings such as salt, pepper, sugar… depending on the expected type and the recipe of each region. This mixture is then “tráng” – an action of pouring the mixture on a flat surface and spreading it into a thin, round layer – in a steaming pot. This step is now still done manually for all pieces of rice paper wrappers one by one. After that, they would be dried up under sunlight. The final products are thin, translucent rounds. The whole process requires carefulness and skills with little help from machines. However, this food can be easily found in every corner of Vietnamese markets at surprisingly affordable prices. The taste of Vietnamese rice paper wrappers is quite plain and they also do not have any smell at all. But because of this, they can be a good companion to any other Vietnamese food.
Freshly-made Banh Trang
Drying Banh Trang with sunlight
How Do Vietnamese Rice Paper Wrappers Appear in Local Cuisine
Vietnamese rice paper wrappers may look simple, but they are parts of countless Vietnamese dishes, especially the street food snacks which are widely loved by young people.
In the main dishes, they are used to wrap other ingredients into a roll so that you can enjoy every taste in just one bite. To make the most of them, the papers are usually lightly soaked in water to soften the texture. No matter what diet you have, you can adjust the fillings to make your own roll. The typical fillings include vegetables like lettuce, cucumber, Vietnamese herbs, and pickles, meat (pork, beef, chicken, seafood, anything you want!), and rice vermicelli. Cha Gio – Fried Spring Rolls and Goi Cuon – Summer Rolls can be two good starts if you want to try rice paper. Besides that, some popular fillings you might want to taste are Banh Xeo, grilled fish, and boiled pork.
Banh Trang and one of the most common fillings: vegetables and meat
Cha Gio (Vietnamese spring rolls)
The rice paper can also be used to wrap Banh Xeo (Vietnamese Pancakes)
Banh Trang can be used in various vegetarian rolls and dishes
When talking about rice papers, we definitely cannot skip the long list of snacks. One of the most favorites is Banh Trang Tron (mixed rice papers) – a combination of shredded Banh Trang, a special kind of Vietnamese salt – Muoi Tom, juice of Vietnamese kumquat, quail eggs, and jerky. It also has a close version called Banh Trang Cuon (wrapped rice papers) with similar ingredients and is served with butter and chili sauce. Another must-try is Vietnamese Pizza – Banh Trang Nuong – a grilled piece of rice paper topped with egg, butter, sweet and salty shrimps, scallion, and even some cheese and sausages.
Banh Trang Tron
Banh Trang Cuon
Banh Trang Nuong
Stalls full of Banh Trang
Vietnamese Rice Paper Wrappers Villages
In Vietnam, any product that requires a skillful process and a significant amount of experience would create vocational villages specializing in making it. Vietnamese rice paper is not an exception. From South to North, many Vietnamese rural regions have rice-paper-making villages that have existed for centuries. Visiting these places would give you an overview of how Vietnamese rice paper wrappers are made and also chances to try and buy this specialty.
Luu Bao Village, Thua Thien-Hue
Address: Huong Ho Ward, Huong Tra District, Thua Thien-Hue Province
A special note about rice paper in Luu Bao Village is that the villagers would add turmeric into the flour mixture to give Banh Trang an eye-catching yellow. The process of making Banh Trang needs to start very early in the morning until the sun goes down and there is not enough sunlight to dry the paper anymore. An average household with 4 people here would be able to supply more than 1,000 pieces of rice papers per day to the market. The vocation of making Banh Trang at Luu Bao Village has been developed since the fifteenth century. Therefore, it is said to have become “a part of each villager’s body”.
Banh Trang at Luu Bao Village has an iconic yellow color
Trang Bang Village, Tay Ninh
Address: Loc Du Hamlet, Trang Bang Town, Tay Ninh
Banh Trang Phoi Suong – Dewret Rice Paper, the unique product of this village, has been recognized as the National Intangible Cultural Heritage of Vietnam. Besides being dried with sunlight like other types of Banh Trang, Banh Trang Phoi Suong is also exposed to dew to create a signature soft, chewy texture. The process of making it is quite labor-intensive since most of the time, the villagers need to stay up late or even the whole night to make sure the rice paper receives the right amount of dew, or else it would affect the quality of the final product. Another distinctive characteristic of Banh Trang Phoi Suong is that it would be built up with two layers to enhance the texture, instead of one like the regular rice papers. After being made, Banh Trang Phoi Suong should be consumed within a week or else it might become crunchy and lose the original flexibility.
Banh Trang Phoi Suong
Tuy Loan Village, Danang
Address: Hoa Phong Ward, Hoa Vang District, Da Nang City
This hundred-year-old village offers the traditional grilled rice paper. This food is a must on important occasions such as Tet holiday and in Vietnamese death anniversaries. The recipe for Banh Trang here includes fish sauce, salt, sugar, garlic, and sesame to create a pleasant flavor to eat right away after being made. The village supply for both domestic demand and international export.
Grilled Banh Trang at Tuy Loan Village
Places to Try Vietnamese Rice Paper Wrappers in Ho Chi Minh City
Address: 70-72 Vo Van Tan, Ward 6, District 3
Opening hours: 10 AM – 11 PM
Price range: VND 130,000 – 252,000
What to try: Banh Trang Phoi Suong with boiled ham
A signature dish of Hoang Ty
Banh Trang Di Hong
– 25 Road no.11, Ward 4, District 4
– 816 Su Van Hanh, Ward 12, District 10
Opening hours: 10 AM – midnight
Price range: VND 20,000
What to try: Banh Trang Cuon (Rolled Banh Trang) with butter and tamarind sauce
Banh Trang Di Hong has special sauces for Banh Trang Cuon
Banh Trang Thuy
Address: 274/16B Nguyen Van Dau, Ward 11, Binh Thanh District
Opening hours: 9:30 AM – 9 PM
Price range: VND 15,000 – 25,000
What to try: Banh Trang with Satay, Banh Trang with Garlic
Banh Trang Cuon Co Giang
Address: 61 Cu Lao, Ward 2, Phu Nhuan District
Opening hours: 6:30 PM – 10:30 PM
Price range: VND 12,000
What to try: Banh Trang Cuon
Banh Trang Nuong 27 Lo Sieu
Address: 27 Lo Sieu, Ward 16, District 11
Opening hours: 2 PM – 9 PM
Price range: VND 10,000
What to try: Banh Trang Nuong (grilled Banh Trang)
Goi Cuon Tom Nhay
Address: 424 Lac Long Quan, Ward 5, District 11
Opening hours: 11 AM – 7 PM
Price range: VND 7,000-8000/roll
What to try: Goi Cuon
Bo Bia Ly
Address: 120E Dinh Tien Hoang, Da Kao Ward, District 1
Opening hours: 12 PM (noon) – 6:30 PM
Price range: VND 6,000-7,000
What to try: Bo Bia
Summary of The Art of Bánh Tráng – Vietnamese Rice Paper Wrappers
Vietnamese rice paper wrappers have a simple look, but there is an incredible story about how they are made and how significant their role is in Vietnamese cuisine. If you are expecting to taste the best Vietnamese dishes, you should not leave without giving them a try.
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