Banh Cuon – A Chopstick Challenge Worth Winning
Usually translated as “steamed rice paper rolls”, the English name does not do this slippery slurpy tasty treat justice.
The classic banh cuon is a small snack-sized serving of rice paper sheets loosely wrapped around seasoned pork.
The first time I tried this dish, I tried to negotiate the slippery sheets into the dipping sauce and then into my mouth — without much success. Darling Man smirked and then upended his dipping bowl so his rolls were swimming in the sauce. Definitely the better option, in terms of taste and logistics.
Thus started my love affair with banh cuon. I pestered Darling Man into taking me to Ho Chi Minh City’s most famous banh coun joints, mostly one-dish restaurants with concrete floors, stainless steel stools and wobbly folding tables. Often the place was just a family’s front room, open at whatever odd hours suited the cooks. It wasn’t so unusual for the family dog to lurk around under the tables either.
The soft slippery sheets are hard to manage with chopsticks. I have seen Darling Man resort to skewering a piece, rather than gripping it. I love the teamwork that’s sometimes involved in this dish, with one person holding down one end of the roll so the other can tear a bite-sized section free. No matter how delicate and dainty I try to be, I usually end up with drips and splashes on my shirt and on my chin. I’m too busy wiping and blushing to notice if everyone else is having the same problem.
A great place to be “introduced” to this dish (as the Vietnamese say) in Ho Chi Minh City is Banh Cuon LA. It’s air-conditioned, clean and quiet and the menu has a variety of options – with pictures to make things even easier. Their banh cuon is fancied-up street food. But still very tasty.
Banh Cuon LA
57 Nguyen Du St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Ph: (84-8) 3823 1793
Open seven days 7am-11pm
8 years ago