When I travel, I enjoy taking in the sights but, more importantly, the cuisine of the places I visit. One of the best meals I’ve ever had is banh cuon, a Vietnamese specialty consisting of steamed rice rolls covered with fish sauce and served with fresh Vietnamese sides. Just one taste of this delectable treat makes me feel like I’m sampling a medley of exotic flavors and textures.
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Because of the versatility of banh cuon, I can get creative with the accompaniments I serve alongside these steamed rice rolls.
I’ll show you how to make this delicious Vietnamese dish the right way at home in this article.
Banh Cuon: An Introduction
To this day, banh cuon remains one of Vietnam’s most well-loved foods. Banh refers to cake or other foods high in starch, while cuon is Vietnamese for roll. The main component of the banh cuon is rice flour, which is also the basis for the batter that is used to create the thin crepes.
Rice flour and tapioca flour are both used in the recipe. Crepes are made crisper with rice flour and more elastic with tapioca starch. Similarly, you can experiment with the fillings. Banh cuon is adored for its mouthwatering sides as well. You can create an infinite variety of sides based on your preferences and tastes.
Three Ways to Get Rice Flour to Prepare Rice Paper
Preparing the rice sheet is a key part of the banh cuon recipe. The rice paper carries the whole dish; hence, it is essential to do this step perfectly. This procedure may feel tricky at first, but once you get familiar with the best rice flour mix, easy-to-use utensils, and preparation timing, preparing the rice paper will become quick and hassle-free.
Because it is crucial to getting things off to a good start, I always opt for the best rice flour. I have researched and tried various types of rice flour prepared differently and concluded the following three are the best.
- Store-Bought Rice Flour Banh Cuon Mix
- Store Bought Rice Flour
- Milling and Grinding the Rice on Your Own
1. Store-Bought Rice Flour Banh Cuon Mix
Using pre-mixed rice flour from the store is the simplest method for making homemade banh cuon. The seasonings, oil, and other elements required to form the batter are all present in this mixture. Simply open the package, put the mix in a medium mixing bowl, and whisk in water to make the batter.
Get the pre-mixed rice flour if you can access a nearby Vietnamese shop with affordable premium products. I assure you that you won’t be able to pick out the difference in flavor and texture between homemade and store-bought rice flour batter.
2. Store Bought Rice Flour
If you do not have access to the pre-mixed rice flour or wish to mix the seasoning and vegetable oil, then get rice flour from the store. Ground rice flour is easily available at almost all grocery stores everywhere. You can make the batter using this flour per your preferred taste.
Some people also like to improve the starchy consistency of the rice sheets by adding tapioca flour. Store-bought rice flour allows you to prepare the batter the way you like.
3. Milling and Grinding the Rice on Your Own
Some people (including me)) prefer to do everything from scratch, ensuring the final product’s purity, quality, and taste per their preferences. I can choose the rice type, grain size, and rice age by grinding the rice myself.
I find that using aged Basmati rice yields the best results when making banh cuon. This rice has a unique flavor and soft texture and makes the best sheets. Else, you can also get any long-sized rice grains.
Also, the age of the rice plays an important role in the flavor and texture of the cooked batter. The older the rice, the tastier the cooked batter.
Soak the Rice Flour Before Mixing
I always soak the rice flour before preparing the batter. This process is beneficial in multiple ways:
- Soaking the rice overnight or for a few hours will remove the natural, distasteful rice smell.
- Soaking will help make softer steamed rice cakes.
- The cooked rice cakes will look clearer and shinier.
The soaking process is simple and hassle-free. Put the flour in a large bowl. Then add water and keep its level about two to three inches higher than the flour. After a few hours, remove this cloudy water and replace it with the same amount of fresh water.
Additional Tips to Soak the Rice Flour
One tip I’ve learned along the way is to soak the rice flour for two nights. Keep removing and replacing the cloudy water from the bowl. This process will increase the starch content of the rice flour. Hence, you won’t need to add potato starch or tapioca flour.
Another great tip is to use rice starch instead of rice flour. Soaking the rice starch for about eight hours will offer the same results as soaking the rice flour for two nights. Also, you will only need to replace the water only once.
Cooking the Banh Cuon on a Steamer Vs. the Frying Pan
You can make banh cuon in a steamer or a nonstick frying pan. Nonetheless, I always choose a steamer to extract the full flavor of my banh cuon. Cooking banh cuon on the steamer pot removes the raw taste of the rice flour. Additionally, the steamer pot uniformly distributes the steam over the cake’s top and bottom.
Best Places to Buy Banh Cuon Steamer
You can either make a steamer for banh cuon at home or purchase one already made. While both methods produce equally tasty results, the prefabricated steamer makes cooking banh cuon a breeze. These steamers are available from Vietnamese and Chinese eateries at reasonable prices. You can grab one for about $50.
To prepare the steamer yourself, tightly fix the fabric on top of the pan. You can clip the fabrics using elastics or metal rings. The tighter the fabric is, the thinner and better the cakes will cook.
Tips for Storing the Banh Cuon Rice Batter
Based on my experience, I can confidently say that rice batter for banh cuon can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Although the initial soaking with water is sufficient and will not change the texture of the batter, you can substitute a small amount of water at room temperature to make stirring the cold flour a bit easier.
However, since cleaning up after a cooking session is laborious, we advise using the full batter in a single sitting rather than storing it for a long period.
Variations of Banh Cuon Filling
As I like to think of myself as a purist, I usually stick to tried-and-true ingredients when making my recipe. Traditionally, Vietnamese people prepare the filling for these crepes using onion, jicama, dried wood ear mushrooms, and ground pork or Vietnamese ham.
However, there are different variations of this dish per people’s preferences. Some people also like to prepare the filling with grilled pork or ground shrimp. Also, vegetarians may skip the meat and fill it with minced wood ear mushrooms, chopped lettuce, and scallops.
A Variety of Banh Cuon Garnishes and Sides
Vietnamese dishes are well-known around the world because of their abundance of fried or fresh vegetables and delicious Vietnamese sauces. The steamed rice rolls are served with cooked or fresh vegetables and different dressings. The following are some of my favorite complements to banh cuon.
Fried Shallots: On the cutting board, I thinly slice the shallots in preparation for serving with the spring rolls. Next, I add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and saute them over medium heat. These shallots taste terrific with the soft and juicy texture of the banh cuon.
Cucumber: Fresh, thinly sliced cucumber perfectly balances out the nutritious calories of these Vietnamese rice rolls.
Bean Sprouts: Blanched bean sprouts work perfectly with the banh cuon. These sprouts are soft, with a little crunch that goes well with the wholesome taste of the rice rolls.
Scallion Oil: To top my Vietnamese steamed rice rolls, I always prepare this oil. I make scallion oil with thinly sliced scallions, granulated sugar, kosher salt, fish sauce, and vegetable oil.
Turn the flame on, heat the saucepan, and add all the ingredients. Mix everything well, turn off the heat, and your oil is ready. Drizzle the scallion oil over the rice rolls or serve as a side.
Assorted Herbs: Adding refreshing herbs, including Thai Basil and mint, further enhances the freshness and deliciousness of the dish.
Best Places to Buy Scrumptious Banh Cuon
Vietnamese steamed rice rolls are tasty and can be found at most Vietnamese restaurants. Some of the most famous Vietnamese restaurants to enjoy banh cuon are THH, banh cuon Tay Ho, banh cuon Luu Luyen, and Bah cuon Thanh Tri.
Aside from that, Vietnamese steamed rice rolls are often sold in supermarkets pre-assembled on individual plates. You can also find other delicious traditional Vietnamese cuisine at these supermarkets. These disposable plates are great for eating on the fly.
Delicious Bánh Cuốn (Vietnamese Rice Rolls)
- Banh cuon steamer
- Silicone basting brush
Ingredients for the Rice Batter
- Rice flour 200g
- Tapioca starch 40g
- Potato starch 40g
- Water 1300g
- Kosher Salt 1 teaspoon
- Vegetable cooking oil 3 tablespoon
Ingredients for Filling
- Dried wood ear mushroom 15 g
- Chopped onion 127g
- Ground Vietnamese pork 300g
- Vegetable cooking oil 2 tablespoon
- Salt 1 teaspoon
- Monosodium Glutamate ½ teaspoon
- Ground pepper 1 teaspoon
- Finely chopped Jicama 172g
- Green onions 29g
- Hot water
Sides or Toppings
- Blanched bean sprouts
- Fried shallots
- Vietnamese Mortadella Chả Lụa or Vietnamese pork sausage cut into wedges
- Thinly sliced English cucumber
- Chopped mint leaves
- Add rice flour, tapioca flour, salt, cooking oil, and starch in the large bowl. Mix all the dry ingredients and then add water. Let the flour soak in the water overnight or for at least eight hours.
- Gently remove the top thin layer of the water without shaking the flour.
- Soak the dried wood ear mushroom in hot water until it doubles. Later, drip all the excess moisture and chop it finely.
- Peel and finely chop the onion and jicama. Remove the excess water from the jicama by squeezing it with the palm. Keep all these three ingredients in a small bowl.
- Turn on the heat and add vegetable oil to the pan. Sauté fry the chopped onion until it becomes translucent to light brown. Then add salt and pepper and mix well.
- Add ground pork and keep stirring to cook everything evenly. When the pork is almost cooked, add jicama. Then fry the mixture till all moisture is removed from the pan.
- Then turn up the flame and add mushrooms. Fry for a minute, and then turn off the heat. Finally, add chopped green onion, combine everything, and dish out the filling.
Preparation of Banh Cuon
- Fill the steamer pot ⅔ with water and place it on the stove with a high flame. You will use boiling water to prepare the cakes or the rice sheets. If you do not have a steamer pot, use a nonstick pan.
- Mix the batter with the ladle to even out its consistency. Take a ladle full of batter and evenly spread the batter on the steamer screen quickly. Try to make a thin layer of batter. You can also use a measuring cup to spread the batter.
- Close the steamer's lid and let the batter cook on medium heat for 40 to 60 seconds. The crepe will start bubbling when ready. The cooked crepe or rice sheet will be creamy white.
- Remove the rice sheet off the steamer using a wooden stick and place it on a flat surface. You may find it challenging to prepare perfect sheets at the start. However, after a while, you will get used to the steamer's heat and the batter's consistency; and about the third one, you will make perfect banh cuon.
- Then place the filling on one side of the steamed roll and delicately fold it till the end of the sheet. And there you have it; the delicious Vietnamese steamed rice rolls are ready.
- Garnish the Vietnamese rice rolls with bean sprouts, cucumbers, Vietnamese mortadella, crispy fried shallots, and mint leaves. Also, you can enjoy banh cuon with sweet chili sauce or spicy dipping sauce.
Vietnamese cuisine is globally famous for its enticing flavors, layers of textures, delicious sauces, and use of healthy vegetables. Banh cuon, or the Vietnamese steamed rice rolls, offer everything the Vietnamese dishes are famous for.
These soft and juicy steamed rolls contain a delightful filling, and you can enjoy them with various garnishes, sides, and sauces. I assure you that following this banh cuon recipe will get you restaurant-style, authentic flavor. So what are you waiting for? Turn up the flame and get cooking!