Most Westerners associate breakfast foods with sugary pastries, marmalade, butter rolls, soft-boiled eggs, cereal, and orange juice. Breakfast, on the other hand, is approached differently in Việt Nam. It must be something savory, warm, tasty, and satisfying to provide enough energy for the day ahead.
As a result, a dish of bánh cuốn (steamed rice rolls) is a common way for many Vietnamese people to begin their day. It’s rice batter sheets filled with minced wood ear mushrooms, cooked onions, well-seasoned minced pork, and scallion oil. Bánh cuốn is served with crispy fried shallots, fresh herbs, and accommodate with a light sweet-salty fish dipping sauce (nước chấm). Bánh cuốn can be served warm or cold.
Another factor contributing to bánh cun’s appeal is the rice sheets themselves. The perfect sheets are thin and translucent, but firm enough to be picked up with chopsticks by diners. You’ll need the right amount of water and rice flour, as well as the chef’s expertise, to reach this level of textural perfection. Many cooks choose to soak their preferred rice before milling it with water to get the desired batter.
Bánh cuốn stands or falls on how well the fish dipping sauce (nước chấm) is made. The goal is to achieve the appropriate balance, as the first rule of thumb when making this type of sauce is that no single flavor should overpower others.
Versions of Bánh Cuốn
Bánh Cuốn comes in a variety of sizes and shapes, each of which, via its unique recipes and flavor, embodies the culture and spirit of a particular region. Thanh Trì, a well-known southern district of Hà Nội is very popular for bánh cuốn, and it is located on the banks of the Red River and is home to the original version of bánh cuốn, which is a plain steamed rice roll top with fried crisp shallot. Thanh Trì style is served at room temperature with dipping sauce (nước chấm) separately.
Even though the simple ingredients of bánh cuốn Thanh Trì bánh may not sound as attractive as the robust beef phở or flavourful bún chả with its chunks of char-grilled meat patties and superb marinated pork belly sliced, it is lighter and will leave you satisfied rather than stuffed. However, if you prefer a heartier meal, add extra slices of baked cinnamon pork ham (chả quế) or steamed sausage (chả lụa) to accompany it.
To further improve the sauce’s flavor, folks in the north of Việt Nam choose to add a few drops of Belostomatidae aromatic essence (Tinh dầu cà cuống), commonly known as giant water bugs. The males secrete a fragrant liquid from two abdominal glands that are used to make a prized sauce for meat and fish. Male of giant water bugs in the market get paid three to four times as much as females. Despite the availability of artificial water insect essence, the locals still prefer to consume real giant water bugs.
In the Central of Việt Nam, particularly around the coast region, another roll of bánh cuốn called bánh ướt tôm chấy is popular (steamed rice rolls with grounded dry shrimp). Shrimps are cooked thoroughly, dried, and pulverized finely. The pulverized shrimp, sometimes known as shrimp powder, is then rolled into a rice sheet. Ground shrimp is sometimes sprinkled over the top of plain bánh cuốn instead of being rolled with a rice sheet.
In contrast to the North and Central of Việt Nam, the South serves bánh cuốn with minced pork stuffing and a variety of vegetables and herbs such as blanched bean sprouts, julienne of Vietnamese perilla leaves, chopped sweet basil, mint and coriander, shredded lettuce, and cucumber, top with fry shallots, Vietnamese steamed sausage and nước chấm served separately.
Bánh cuốn is traditionally served for breakfast, although it has evolved into a comfort food that may be served all day. It could be a quick lunch to finish office work or a little meal to catch up with friends. From the preparation to the rolling of the rolls, bánh cuốn is an ideal dish for bringing family members together at the dinner table.
Whether steamed in the traditional method or modern non-stick pan, in small or large savory roll sizes, with or without a variety of fillings, bánh cuốn is a wonderful and long-lasting favorite throughout Việt Nam and among many visitors’ favorites.
Bánh cuốn is a delicately steamed roll that embodies the culinary culture and spirit of Việt Nam. Despite its sophisticated origins, it has evolved into a comfort cuisine that also represents the diversity and ingenuity of Việt Nam.