Let's get creative with Vietnamese steamed rice rolls

Published:  06:39 Wednesday - March 29, 2017

Steamed rice roll, or banh cuon, is the traditional Vietnamese dish that is easily overlooked by tourists, and overshadowed by the omnipresent banh mi or pho.

The beloved northern Vietnamese dish is often given a touch of creativity in Saigon. Are they worth the money or just gimmicks? The thin noodle sheet is steamed over a thin layer of fabric, on top of boiling water. It is often served with minced pork and a lightly sweetened dipping sauce (which of course has fish sauce).

Watch this cool video filmed at a famous banh cuon joint in Hanoi to learn about the art of making the dish, in the traditional way. In Ho Chi Minh City, cooks sometimes get creative. And here are three amended versions of banh cuon that you should try. 

Egg rolls

Banh cuon is loved for its simplicity because for many, the plain rice noodle is enough and actually the best part.

But what if you can add some extra flavor and color?

A few places in the city choose to put a layer of golden egg on the traditional noodle sheet and steam it. Traditionalists may groan, but many diners in Saigon often ask for these egg rolls.

Where to try:

Thien Huong Restaurant, 155 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 1

Xuan Huong Restaurant, 1 Song Da Street, Tan Binh District

55/19 Van Kiep Street in Binh Thanh District

Rolls with squid cake

Traditionally, banh cuon goes with Vietnamese pork bologna cha lua.

But in this case, it is combined with an amazing side dish: cha muc, or fried squid cake.

This version is believed to have been made famous by Quang Ninh Province, less than a hundred miles from Hanoi. But some Saigon restaurants say their offerings are the best.

Where to try:

Gia Phuc Restaurant at 76 Nguyen Huu Cau Street, District 1

DIY rolls (aka Roll it yourself)

Diners are given a tower of plates. Lift each of them up and you will find a thin sheet of banh cuon ready to be rolled.

This version is perfect for those DIY types who love to keep their hands busy even at a dinner table. It's also perfect for the competitive. (We all have friends who say: "My roll is much better than yours.")

Those interested in building plate towers will enjoy this too.

Where to try:

Ban Me Restaurant at 24-26 Nam Quoc Cang Street, District 1

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