Banh cuon, or Vietnamese noodle rolls, are yet another delicious food to try in Vietnam.
Although banh cuon is a northern Vietnamese dish, it’s widely available throughout the south as well, and you’ll find it frequently throughout Saigon.
When it comes to a light meal or a snack, banh cuon is one of my favorite things to eat in Vietnam.
During my trip to Saigon, there was a restaurant just down the road from where I was staying, called Banh Cuon Hai Nam, and due its location, I ate there a number of times.
What is banh cuon?
Banh cuon literally translates to rolled cakes, but I like to call them noodle roll-ups.
The dish begins with a batter, which is made from a combination of rice flour and tapioca starch. The flour ingredients are mixed with water and allowed to rest, should be overnight, so that it has just a hint of fermentation sourness to it.
Along with the batter, the other part of banh cuon is the filling, typically a mixture of minced pork and wood ear mushrooms.
In order to make banh cuon, a pot is set up with water in the bottom, and a cloth is stretched over the mouth.
The batter is scooped onto the cloth, spread evenly, and then steamed from the water below.
In just a few moments, the batter is fully steamed and transforms from liquid into a giant round shaped thin noodle.
The noodle is then grabbed with a stick, filled with the filling mixture, then wrapped up in a noodle roll-up.
The process may sound pretty easy, but it definitely takes some serious skill to master (make sure you watch the video if you haven’t already).
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Bánh Cuốn Hải Nam
Like I mentioned above, banh cuon is actually a northern Vietnamese dish, but you’ll notice it all over Saigon as well.
When I was walking around, I saw it at numerous local markets and street food stalls, and also at many restaurants that specialize in it.
One of the well-known restaurants in Saigon that serves banh cuon is Bánh Cuốn Hải Nam.
The menu at Banh Cuon Hai Nam included quite a few different Vietnamese dishes, all sorts of noodle and roll dishes, but I think by far the main thing they sell, and what they’ve really made a name for is banh cuon.
One of the convenient things about the restaurant is that the menu is printed in Vietnamese but includes English descriptions to make it easier to order.
The first thing I ordered was their normal plate of banh cuon, which I think anyone who walks in the door of the restaurant automatically orders.
The plate included two pretty decent sized noodle rolls, filled with a generous supply of the minced meat filling, then topped with a handful of shredded lettuce and blanched bean sprouts, and finally a sprinkle of fragrant crispy shallots.
Price – 30 VND ($1.38)
In addition to the noodle rolls, they came with a side plate of Vietnamese ham or sausage called cha lua. The cha lua was alright, but to me the best part are the rolls.
Finally, banh cuon wouldn’t be complete without sauce. The sauce, known as nuoc cham, is a sweet type of Vietnamese fish sauce.
It was salty, and sweet, and you don’t want to miss adding some fresh crushed chilies to your sauce as well.
Dipping bites of banh cuon into the sweet fish sauce and chilies was marvelous.
The noodle wrappers were soft and silky, while the meat filling was salty and I could taste the fragrance of the mushrooms. Additionally, I think crispy shallots are one of my favorite flavor enhancing ingredients in the world.
The banh cuon at Banh Cuon Hai Nam was overall quite good.
Along with my plate of banh cuon, I also decided to try their version of banh beo, Vietnamese water fern cakes.
Unlike the banh cuon that came in a thin wrapper, banh beo is more like a thick pancake, but much more creamy and sticky.
The batter had a real coconut milk flavor to it, and it was kind of the consistency of a thickened pudding.
Price – 38,000 VND ($1.75)
On top was the same mixture of minced pork and wood ear mushrooms, and then I think the yellow topping was some kind of dried shrimp.
It was pretty good, but not as good to me as the banh cuon.
To see banh cuon being made and to get delicious views of the food, watch the video below:
(If you can’t see the video, watch it here)
Banh Cuon Hai Nam is a well known restaurant in Saigon that serves banh cuon, northern Vietnamese noodle rolls.
After the thin sheet noodles are steamed, they are filled with a mixture of minced pork and wood ear mushrooms, wrapped up into rolls, and served with a sweet fish sauce dressing.
Overall, Banh Cuon Hai Nam is a nice place to try banh cuon in Saigon, in a clean indoor setting.
Banh Cuon Hai Nam
Address: 11A Cao Thắng, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Open hours: 7:30 am – 10:45 pm daily, makes a great snack restaurant or light meal spot
Price: 30,000 VND ($1.38) for a plate of their normal banh cuon
For the map, click on “Banh Cuon Hai Nam” to see the location:
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