Food For Four

The Cookbook Challenge Week 17: Bánh Cuốn – Vietnamese Rice Rolls with Pork

Posted on | March 19, 2010 | Asian Recipes, Cookbook Challenge, Recipes, Vietnamese Recipes | 9 Comments

Banh Cuon

Theme: Vietnamese

Since I moved away from home and started my own family, I have come to appreciate my mum’s cooking. I love her soup noodles that she had boiled for hours and that I would slurp up the very last drop, or the comforting and delicious taste of plain rice served with thịt kho. But luckily I still get this home cooked goodness when she comes over each week. I’m hoping to learn everything about Vietnamese cooking from mum and be as good as her one day.

I was never interested in buying Vietnamese cookbook until a couple of weeks ago Songs of Sapa by Luke Nguyen was discounted and I couldn’t resist. I became a huge fan of Luke Nguyen after following his series Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam. Like the TV series, the book is a visual and vibrant journey of Luke traveling and cooking through Vietnam. Reading about his stories makes me miss Vietnam.

This week’s Cookbook Challenge is “Vietnamese” and I decided that I was going to make something which I love to eat but have never made before. I saw a recipe in Songs of Sapa for bánh cuốn and decided that I would give it a go. Bánh cuốn is made from rice flour into thin rice flour sheets, filled with pork, wood ear mushrooms and bean thread noodles.

The rice sheets are very delicate and paper-thin. To get the rice sheets paper-thin, the thin batter is steamed on a piece of cloth over a pot of boiling water. The rice sheet is then lifted from the cloth with a long thin stick.

An alternative to steaming on a cloth is to pan-fry. Pan-frying will not give you paper-thin rice sheets but many people have tried this method at home and is happy with the results. Songs of Sapa used the pan-fry method and I was very curious as how it would turn out.

I got my mum in with the making of bánh cuốn as well. Instead of using the batter recipe from the book, Mum bought the pre-mixed bánh cuốn flour which also contains rice flour and tapioca flour.

The verdict from this little experience is that I’m never going to make this at home again, especially when I can buy it easily from Cabramatta. It wasn’t a complete disaster but the trouble that went into make this was not worth it.  The difficult part was removing the rice sheets from the pan and lay them flat on the tray so they don’t stick together.  After a while I got the hang of making the rice sheets but ran out of batter. I had a lot of wastage (about 60%) and these are all the good ones from using 400g flour.

Banh Cuon

The ones that did made it to the plate tasted very nice. It was not paper-thin but there are more elements to this dish than just the thin rice sheets. The other contributing elements to this dish are the tasty fillings, fresh herbs, cucumber, bean sprout, fried shallots, Vietnamese ham and the fish sauce.

I knew from the start that making the bánh cuốn was just an experiment to satisfy my curiosity about the pan-fry method to make such thin and delicate rice sheets. The best thing about it was I had a wonderful bonding experience with mum in the kitchen.

Banh Cuon - Rice Rolls with Pork

Bánh cuốn – Vietnamese rice rolls with pork
Adapted from Songs of Sapa by Luke Nguyen

Note: I used 400g pre-mixed Bánh Cuốn flour instead of the batter recipe below.

Ingredients

125g rice flour
125g tapioca flour

4 dried wood ear mushrooms
1 teaspoon fish sauce
125ml vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 red Asian shallots, finely chopped
300g minced pork
1/2 teaspoon sugar

To serve
500g chả lụa (Vietnamese ham), sliced into thin strips
2 cucumbers, sliced into batons
1 bunch perilla leaves, leaves picked
1 bunch mint leaves, leaves picked
1 bunch Vietnamese, leaves picked
300g bean sprout, blanched in boiling water
50g fried red Asian shallots
250ml dipping fish sauce

Method

Put the mushrooms in a bowl, cover with the water and soak for 20 minutes, then drain and thinly slice. Return the mushrooms to the bowl and combine with the fish sauce.

To make the batter, combine the rice flour, tapioca flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt with 750ml of cold water. Whisk well, until a smooth batter forms.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the oil and fry the garlic and shallots until fragrant. Add the mushrooms, pork, sugar and pinch of salt and frely ground black pepper, and stir-fry for 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Brush a round tray with oil and place beside the stove. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat, and add enough oil to coat the base of the pan. Pour a small ladleful of the batter into the pan, turning the pan in a circular motion to cover the base with a thin layer of batter. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 30 seconds. Remove the lid and slide the thin noodle sheet onto your oiled try. Spoon 1 tablespoon of pork mixture onto the noodle sheet, fold two sides in, then fold over to form a roll. Transfer to a plate. Repeat this process using the remaining batter and pork mixture, adding oil to the pan as necessary.

Top the rolls with Vietnamese ham, cucumber, perilla, mint, Vietnamese mint, bean sprouts and fried shallots. Dress with the dipping fish sauce and garnish with sliced chilli.

Banh Cuon - Vietnamese Rice Flour Rolls

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Comments

9 Responses to “The Cookbook Challenge Week 17: Bánh Cuốn – Vietnamese Rice Rolls with Pork”

  1. ravenouscouple
    March 19th, 2010 @ 2:37 am

    even without the traditional steaming over fabric method, it looks delicious and worth making–we don’t have a Vietnamese cookbook either!

  2. kyle @ Photo-Ventura
    March 19th, 2010 @ 7:55 am

    I first ate Banh Cuon in Hanoi 5 years ago, at a small cafe set up in the front corner of a jewellery shop. The lady made them fresh for us while we waited and I was in awe of her skill and dexterity peeling the skins off the steamer with chopsticks and deftly wrapping the filling ingredients inside. And I was in raptures eating the silky soft rolls, inhaling the sweet cinnamony cooking smells of Cha Que pork-roll that was wafting in the alleyway. She also used a special ingredient in the dressing, made from ‘grasshopper semen’ – and I tell you, that stuff is divine!! Smelled like a spring morning when the pear-trees are in blossom! Any grasshopper that got wind of that stuff would have been winging their way to that cafe for sure!!

  3. Anh
    March 19th, 2010 @ 10:03 am

    Oh my, I miss this dish! Yours look so thin and delicate. Just right!

  4. Amy @ cookbookmaniac.com
    March 19th, 2010 @ 9:24 pm

    I agree with you about buying them from Cabramatta. They are so cheap and very delicious, with all the trouble you went through it seems that it is easier on the wallet and energy to simply buy them.

    Your banh cuon looks delicious despite the difficulty and I guess any special moment you share with your family is more precious than anything in the world.

  5. MaryMoh
    March 19th, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

    Ooooh….I love this. I have always loved rice rolls. I used to eat a lot at home. We call it ‘chee cheon fun’ Thanks for sharing.

  6. Columbus Foodie » Blog Archive » March 2010 Roundup
    April 5th, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

    [...] Reuben Chowder from Food o’ del Mundo, Spicy Crab Stuffed Mushrooms from The Food Addicts, Bánh Cuon from Food for Four, Crockpot Nachos from Full Bellies, Happy Kids, Dijon Rosemary Chicken and [...]

  7. Manny
    April 25th, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

    I made this on Sunday using Andrea Nguyen’s recipe and it turned out great. The secret to removing the rice sheets from the frying pan is to bang the pan upside down onto your work surface (I inverted my pizza pan).

  8. lindadouglas
    July 19th, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

    The food looks so good yummy.

  9. Elizabeth Lok
    March 12th, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

    Beautiful Bánh cuốn! I, too, miss my momma’s, aunties’, and grandma’s home cooking and didn’t realize it until I moved to Belgium (where it is harder to find quick and reliable ingredient sources and good, authentic Vietnamese restaurants) how strongly I miss those flavors. Bravo on your great attempt! I’m planning to try to cook more Vietnamese to give my sons a taste!

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