Banh cuon (steamed rice cakes/ rice crepe/ stuffed rice film pancake), one of the best loved northern dishes in Ho Chi Minh City, is getting a makeover with new local flavors being added to it.
Making the cake, often eaten for breakfast, traditionally starts with a thin sheet of freshly cooked rice paper and ground pork.
However, new kinds of banh cuon can be found at HAT GAO VANG ( GOLDEN RICE) Restaurant in HCMC’s District 1.
They are more colorful to start with since purple sheets made from taro are used to roll fillings of egg yellow and white rather than the traditional plain white.
The cakes are filled with seafood and mushroom to give a very different flavor and texture rather than the usual meaty taste.
The restaurant is named HAT GAO VANG -- meaning “golden rice” -- to show respect to rice, the main staple of Vietnamese from ancient times, and underline Vietnam’s status as a home to a wide range of delicious cakes made from the grain.
At the restaurant, one can choose a flavor to add to the rice sheets from among pineapple leaf, taro, coconut milk, and others.
There is a choice of 10 different fillings, including seafood, chicken, mushroom, egg, cha bong (stringy pork loin), and grilled meat. For the indecisive, the waiters and waitresses will recommend the best combinations picked out by the chefs.
The dish arrives in five minutes. Rolls of banh cuon and slices of cha (pork sausage) on one side and lettuce and bean sprouts on the other make for a beautifully decorated plate that gets your juices flowing.
Banh cuon is best eaten with a special nuoc cham (dipping sauce), sometimes with a drop of ca cuong, an essence obtained from a giant water bug for flavor.
The cakes start at a moderate VND25,000 (US$1,2).
Besides banh cuon, the restaurant also serves sweet, crispy fried cakes made by grinding prawn into a batter and frying with a minced prawn filling.
Then there is vegetarian banh cuon and banh uot (thin pancakes) on the first and 15th day of every Lunar month.
HAT GAO VANG places importance on food safety and hygiene and says it only uses ingredients bought from trusted suppliers. An open kitchen allows guests to watch their food being made.
The restaurant makes its own hanh phi (fried shallots), serves drinks with pure ice, and does not use borax.
HAT GAO VANG is a cozy restaurant for family and friends, a budget rendezvous for young people, and an ideal place for foreigners to discover typical Vietnamese countryside food.
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