Bánh cuốn is a Vietnamese specialty made with a very thin, steamed, loosely rolled, rice flour crêpe. The recipe is not that complicated but assembling the rice rolls can be delicate. Unlike French crêpe, the batter is made from combined rice flour, tapioca starch and corn starch, which makes bánh cuốn very flimsy and harder to manipulate. The first rice flour crêpe is never perfect, and I usually thin the batter with more water as I cook them, so they don’t turn out too thick. The filling remains exposed since the rice roll is nearly transparent.
This time, I made a meat version with chicken. You could always make the rice flour crêpe with a vegetarian filling if you prefer. I tucked into each rice roll a filling of seasoned ground meat (I used chicken), wood ear mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts and dried shallots. Typically, bánh cuốn is sprinkled with fried shallots (or onions) with nước chấm (fish sauce). I served shrimp cakes and fried taro cakes on the side along with mounds of steamed soy bean sprouts, combined with cilantro, Vietnamese mint (rau thơm), shredded cucumber, lettuce, lime wedges and green Thai chiles.
It’s not the prettiest meal, but it’s a flavorful, earthy (thanks to the mushrooms), light meal dish. If you want to improve the presentation and avoid tearing, drizzle the rice roll with a little oil and expose the smooth part of the bánh cuốn on top to hide the wrinkly side.
1. Info for Banh Cuon Recipe (Steamed Rice Rolls)
- Cook Time: 40 mins
- Total Time: 1 hr 40 mins
- Servings: 8
- Calories: 376 kcal
2. Ingredients for Banh Cuon Recipe (Steamed Rice Rolls)
- 8 shallots, thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons canola oil, as needed
- ½ pound ground chicken
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- 6 fresh wood ear mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
- ½ cup canned water chestnuts, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (see tips)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning salt (or regular table salt)
- 1-½ cups rice flour
- 1 cup tapioca starch
- ½ cup corn starch
- 6-¼ cups cold water, as needed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups soy bean sprouts, steamed
- 3 cups combined cilantro, Vietnamese mint (rau thơm), shredded cucumber and lettuce
- 1-½ cups nước chấm
- In a saucepan, heat the canola oil. Add the shallots. Pan-fry until golden. Transfer to a plate (don’t drain). Let cool. Set aside.
- Place the ground chicken in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons fried shallots. Mix well. Add the grated ginger and red chili powder. Season with ½ teaspoon mushroom salt and pepper. Using food service disposable gloves, mix the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove the remaining shallots from the oil and reserve separately. In a pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved shallot-flavored oil. Add the garlic and cook until slightly golden. Add the ground chicken mixture. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add the shiitake and wood ear mushrooms and water chestnuts. Stir-fry for another 3 minutes. Add 2 more tablespoons of fried shallots. Taste the meat. Season with more mushroom seasoning salt and pepper if necessary. Transfer to a plate. Set aside. Making bánh cuống batter: In a bowl, whisk the 3 flours together with the water. Season with ½ teaspoon salt. Stir well; make sure there are no lumps. Add 2 tablespoons of oil.
- Using a silicone brush, coat a flat, non-stick pan with the reserved oil. Stir the batter one more time and ladle a thin layer (count about 3 tablespoons of batter) into the pan. Lift the pan and then tilt and rotate it until the batter is evenly spread and forms a nice, very thin disk. Drizzle with a little oil. Cover with a lid and let it steam for a few seconds. Once the color becomes slightly transparent-white, place a little mound of the chicken-mushroom filling and delicately, loosely fold opposite ends toward the center (where the filling is). You want to make sure not to over-fill the rice roll; otherwise the bánh cuốn might tear or the excess filling might burst out of the sides while folding. The rice sheet should be shiny in texture and the rest should look wrinkly. Transfer to an individual serving plate, inverting the bánh cuốn, so the filling is still seen through the rice roll and exposed and the top of the rice flour crêpe looks smooth. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and repeat the same procedure until all the ingredients are used. Pour a little more oil into the pan before beginning the next bánh cuốn. Stir the bánh cuốn batter as you go for uniform consistency (and thin the batter with more water if necessary). Sprinkle the top with the reserved fried shallots.
- When ready to serve, serve the bánh cuốn with steamed bean sprouts, combined cilantro, Vietnamese mint, shredded cucumber and lettuce served on the side and drizzle with nước chấm sauce. Bon appétit!