Friday, December 16, 2011

Banh Cuon with Prawns and Vegetables (Vietnamese Rice Rolls)

Snapshot of Hoi An, Vietnam
Delicious Vietnam is a monthly food blogging event which was founded by Anh (A food lover’s journey) and Hong & Kim (Ravenous Couple) with the aim promoting and exploring the diversity of Vietnamese cuisine. I have been following this event for some time now and after two years Anh has decided that the next edition will be the last with entries to be submitted by 31 December 2011 (so if you would like to contribute, you still can!). I have always wanted to participate in Delicious Vietnam and I am a bit sad that it’s all coming to an end but happy that I can contribute to the last one. Join the Delicious Vietnam Facebook page to share delicious Vietnamese recipes, stories and restaurant reviews with others.

This is my entry to Delicious Vietnam December 2011.
When you dine at Vietnamese restaurants in Perth, you get a stock standard list of Vietnamese dishes, but in Vietnam a lot of dishes are exclusive to specific regions and some stalls specialize in selling just one dish. Ho Ani was my favourite place to eat when I traveled around Vietnam in October, with an abundance of restaurants and street food stalls selling a wide variety of delicious food, I would recommend it as the top food destination in Vietnam. The local delicacies specific to Hoi An are cao lau and white rose, these two dishes are not available anywhere else in Vietnam. The noodles in cau lau are made using water from the centuries-old Ban Le well in the Quang Nam Province in town, which give the noodles a unique taste and I loved their firm chewy texture (similar to Japanese udon). White rose is a shrimp dumpling made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose and apparently it is only made by one family in Hoi An who supplies all the restaurants (the recipe is a family secret).
Cau lau noodles, bean sprouts, lettuce, herbs, thin slices of pork, 
crackling squares with a bit of rich meat broth.

White rose - the most delicious dumpling that I ate in Vietnam.

Cau lau and white rose were a highlight of my eating endeavours in Hoi An (and all of Vietnam) but sadly I can never fully replicate these dishes at home. A dish that I ate in Hoi An which was revolutionary for me was banh cuon, as it changed the way that I thought this dish could be made.

(Eating Place 62, Hoi An. Note: Women in Vietnam wear their pyjamas out!)

Nicola and I met up with some friends from Perth in Hoi An who also happened to be there at the same time we were. They recommended we have dinner at an outdoor eating area – Bai Boi Dong Hiep, Eating Place 62 that they ate at the night before. Deciding what to eat can be a difficult task when there is so much on offer but when I saw banh cuon on the menu I knew what I wanted to order. I was interested in trying dishes that I could have back home in Perth to see what it was like in the country of origin. This was the first time that I had ordered banh cuon on our Vietnam trip. Banh cuon is one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes. It’s a thin crepe like rice roll, filled with a mixture of ground pork and minced wood ear mushrooms. It’s freshly made and should be eaten straight away. I love the lightness of the rice rolls and the delicious pork filling topped with herbs and nuoc cham. It looks simple but is packed with flavour. Banh cuon is traditionally cooked by steaming over a fabric covered pot of boiling water which produces a delicate and thin rice crepe.
 [Here’s a video that I found on youtube of banh cuon being 
made the traditional way – steamed on a pot]
(Spotted - lady making banh cuon in Danang Supermarket)

Banh Cuon is something that my mum would often cook for lunch on a Sunday. However, she uses a non-stick frying pan to cook the banh cook instead of the traditional method as it’s easier. The rice rolls are not as light and delicate as the ones produced by steaming but the results are satisfactory.

When the plate of banh cuon that I had ordered at Eating Place 62 was placed in front of me I was a bit puzzled as it wasn’t what I expected. The banh cuon didn’t contain the usual ground pork, minced wood ear mushroom, and onions mixture. The banh cuon was filled with prawns and vegetables. 

(Banh cuon dish from Eating Place 62, Hoi An)

I have never seen banh cuon served like this before, but it didn’t matter as it tasted delicious and I didn’t know why I hadn’t thought of putting other fillings in banh cuon before. The filling of prawns and vegetables made the banh cuon a much lighter and refreshing dish. Vegetarians could adjust the filling for banh cuon with some grilled tofu and vegetables. Banh cuon is also enjoyed plain with no fillings and just topped with some fried shallots, herbs and served with nuoc cham.

Banh Cuon with Prawns and Vegetables


Rice roll batter
•    200g rice flour
•    100g tapioca starch
•    ½ teaspoon salt
•    800ml warm water
•    cooked prawns
•    bean sprouts
•    carrot, grated
•    chives, chopped into 2-3 inch lengths
Garnish with fried shallots, coriander and serve with nuoc cham (for a recipe for nuoc cham, see my Vietnamese chicken salad recipe)

(The rice flour and tapioca starch that I used)


Put the rice flour, tapioca starch and salt together in a bowl, then slowly pour in the warm water and whisk together until smooth and well blended, it should have a watery consistency and resemble milk. 

Heat a large non-stick frying pan and lightly grease the pan with vegetable oil. Spoon one ladle of batter into the pan – one hand is used to pour the mixture in fast, while the other hand is used to swirl/revolve the pan quickly to spread the batter around the pan evenly and coat the bottom. Cover the pan and let the batter sit undisturbed for around 30 seconds to cook through, it should become transparent. The batter is ready when the edges start to release (don’t worry if you see bubbles forming or little holes). 

Scatter some prawns, bean sprouts, carrot and chives onto the batter and quickly roll the crepe into a log with a spatula while it is in the pan.

Slide the rolled banh cuon onto a plate, garnish with some fried onion, coriander and serve with nuoc cham.
•    You can remove the rice crepe from the pan onto an oiled plate and then add in the fillings and roll, but I find it quicker to just do it all at once in the pan.
•    You need to work quickly and don’t overcook the batter as it should be smooth in texture and kind of resemble something that is steamed.


  1. Nice! It looks just like the dish you had in Hoi An, good work! I miss eating in Hoi An, when I go back I know I'm going to have to go straight there. I love that place so much.

  2. Thanks Phuoc :) I agree with you on Hoi An. I miss it too, especially cau lau. I had three bowls of it while I was there.

  3. Making your own banh cuon doesn't look so hard! I had always imagined it was a very laborious process with special equipment.

  4. Love it! Will subscribe to your blog immediately.

  5. @plaidbag Making banh cuon with a frying pan isn't too hard once you get the hang out of it. The method of steaming over a pot is harder but would be ok with some practice.

    @Lizzy Thanks :) It was a lot of fun trying to recreate something that I ate in Hoi An, glad you enjoyed it.

  6. What a great idea to use shrimp! I might actually try this one day...but first I have to make your Nem recipe as just got some bi flown in from a friend's mom and have some tinned ham int he pantry :)

  7. @ginger and scotch Thanks for your comment :) Shrimp works well in banh cuon, I am going to try cooking it with tofu one day. Hope you enjoy the nem recipe, it's kind of a short cut/cheats way of making nem but I really like it.

  8. i'll let you know how the nem goes. really craving it right now. i'm kind of afraid to use raw pork (not sure how fresh the pork in Dubai is) so short-cut way sounds good to me.

  9. This sounds absolutely delicious! The closest thing I've made to this is summer rolls - for which I just bought the rice wrappers. I would love to try make the batter and wrappers for these rolls though!