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

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.

17 Comments

  1. Awesome, I’m also a big fan of banh cuon! I like the description of the teamwork – it’s always great when a food necessitates group interaction!
    Migrationology recently posted..Guide to Egypt’s Siwa Oasis – Dunes- Dates- Donkeys and Dwellings

  2. I would probably drop these in my lap if I attempted to eat them with chopsticks, but I have no shame so at that point I would just use my fingers and dive in! 😛

    That first picture is making me SO hungry right now.
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Photo Essay- White Sands National Monument

    • The Dropout says:

      A ladylike way to deal with these would be to hold a spoon on your left hand and load it up with the chopsticks with torn-off bits of banh cuon. I think you should try that before resorting to fingers. Just because Ho Chi Minh City is so dirty it means your hands are usually dirty too.

      (I should ask your help in getting the yellow out of the photo before publishing, by the way.)

  3. jade says:

    oh, dear, god… looks amazing! i love banh cuon or steamed rice paper rolls- whatever you want to call them… I’ll eat them!!

  4. Hmm looks really tasty but I think I would find trying to eat it with chopsticks so frustrating!! I suppose its a great way to improve your chopsticking skills though!
    Jozef @ Where Now recently posted..Pantanal Day 3

  5. robin says:

    I’ve always been a meditteranean food kind of guy. You’ve done more for Asian food for me than anyone else I’ve read!
    Beautful food writing and an obvious love for your subject matter.
    robin recently posted..K is Beautiful

  6. Kent @ NVR says:

    OK – you KNOW we love us a good food post. Those look wonderful!
    This is especially hard to read/see having been in Prague where we haven’t been big fans of the food.

  7. Now, this was the one thing I forgot to try while in Vietnam. Nevertheless, I will be back to try it. I’m sure they have it in Hanoi too.
    David @ MalaysiaAsia recently posted..Unduk Ngadau 2011 Beauty Contest in Sabah

  8. Laurel says:

    I love eating messy foods like this, it’s just so much more fun – as long as you’re not wearing white and they look delicious.
    Laurel recently posted..Roman Limes Museum in Aalen- Germany

  9. Renee says:

    HA….there are some things that you have to get down and dirty with….no shame in that! It looks quite tasty!
    Renee recently posted..TRAVEL PHOTO THURSDAY

  10. Grace says:

    They look divine. Hats off to your patience. I would either ask for a fork or pick it up with my fingers and devour.

  11. […] to fill him full of Vietnam’s fabulous coffee, phở, bánh mì, bánh bèo, mì Quảng, bánh cuốn and all my other favourite […]

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