Banh Cuon (Vietnamese steamed rolls)

Bánh Cuốn & Bánh Ướt – Vietnamese Steamed Rice Rolls

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Bánh Cuốn and Bánh Ướt! These close siblings are breakfast staples across Vietnam, from the North to the South.

Both are steamed rice sheets and could be filled with minced pork and black ear mushrooms (or not), then served with a delicious dipping fish sauce!

Preparing Bánh Cuốn traditionally can be quite finicky since it requires a specialized steamer. But today, I’ll give you some tips to simplify the recipe wih a non-stick skillet.

Banh Cuon (Vietnamese steamed rolls)

🧑‍🍳 How I develop my recipe

Living in a shared apartment with a small kitchen, I wasn’t keen on setting up a traditional steamer to make Bánh Cuốn. However, I plan to develop a recipe for it in the future (always love challenges 😎).

Making Bánh Cuốn with a nonstick skillet is also a good option, though it may not yield rice sheets as good as the traditional method (but still relatively thin and delicate imo).

Banh Cuon (Vietnamese steamed rolls)

The recipe for Bánh Cuốn with a skillet will have a higher water ratio than the traditional steamer method.

If I have time, I prefer to grind the rice (Basmati rice works best) and soak the batter, then discard and replace the water several times, as in the traditional method. The slightly fermented batter produces more delicate and translucent rice sheets without any starch.

However, I decided to draft the recipe using rice flour since it’s less fussy. To shorten the soaking time, I incorporated some starch. I didn’t want its texture too chewy, so I combined both tapioca starch and potato starch.

Potato starch is key here. It has a neutral flavor and yields a better silky, delicate texture (ideal for Bánh Cuốn). You could use all tapioca starch or substitute potato starch with cornstarch but I highly recommend potato starch.

For the leftover potato starch, you could use it as a substitute for cornstarch in thickening soup or in baking, such as in matcha waffles.

I still soak the batter for one hour, discard, and replace the water once before cooking to get rid of any lingering unpleasant smell from the rice.

All in all, I’m quite satisfied with the result 😉—it has turned out quite well. My rice rolls remain soft, thin enough and delicate even after a day in the fridge and reheating in the microwave. I couldn’t ask for more.

🥣 Ingredients

For the filling:

ingredients for banh cuon filling
  • Ground pork: Use pork with a decent amount of fat (I sometimes grind pork belly at home). If you can’t eat pork, you can use ground chicken or beef, but it won’t quite be the same as traditional Vietnamese Bánh Cuốn anymore 😂.
  • Wood ear mushroom: A popular Asian mushroom known for its crunchy texture. I love it in Bún Mọc (rice noodles with pork balls) and Chả Trứng Hấp (steamed egg meatloaf).
  • Shallots & Onions: You can also substitute shallots with the white part of scallions. In Saigon, sometimes, people use jicama instead of onions.
  • Seasoning: Fish sauce, sugar, and ground black pepper.

The batter for nonstick skillets:

Banh cuon flour

As previously mentioned, to prepare the batter, you’ll need rice flour (Vietnamese or Thai), tapioca starch, potato starch, cooking oil, and salt.

Other ingredients:

  • Nước Chấm: fish sauce, sugar, water and distilled vinegar or lime/lemon, and chili. I don’t like garlic in Nước Chấm for Bánh Cuốn.
  • Garnish: blanched bean sprouts, cucumber (cut into matchsticks), Thai basil, cilantro, or Vietnamese coriander (rau răm).
  • Hành Phi (fried shallots)
  • Chả Lụa (Vietnamese ham)
  • For other toppings, you can find more details in my section “How to serve Bánh Cuốn” below.

📝 Instructions

Prepare the batter

You should prepare the batter at least 1 hour before cooking.

I highly highly recommend using a scale to measure the ingredients (less chance of failure).

  • Combine rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch with water. Mix thoroughly to ensure there are no clumps.
  • Allow the mixture to rest for at least one hour, or preferably overnight in the fridge.
  • After resting, you’ll notice the flour has settled to the bottom of the bowl with a layer of water on top. Use a ladle to remove this water without disturbing the flour layer.
  • Measure the amount of water removed and pour back an equal quantity of water into the bowl.
  • Add salt and cooking oil to the mixture. Mix well.
A bowl of batter which is separated into 2 layers of flour and water.
a bowl of Banh Cuon batter.

Cook the filling

While waiting for the batter to rest:

  • Soak the wood ear mushrooms in room temperature water for 30 minutes. Then, wash and rinse them several times. I prefer to chop them coarsely to maintain their crunchy texture.
  • Coarsely chop the shallots and onions.
  • In a pan, heat some cooking oil. Sauté the shallots until fragrant.
  • Add the ground pork, mushrooms, and onions. Season with fish sauce, sugar, and ground black pepper to taste. Cook for just 2-3 minutes.
The pork & mushroom filling for Banh Cuon.

Steam the crêpes

  • Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Apply a very thin layer of cooking oil (I use a paper towel to rub the oil).
  • Lift the skillet and use a ladle to scoop the batter, pouring it into the pan. Tilt and rotate the pan to spread the batter evenly, then pour any excess batter back into the bowl. We want the crêpe to be as thin as possible.
    • You could spray some water onto the rice crêpe at this stage to provide more moisture for steaming.
Rotate and tilt the nonstick skillet to create a thin layer of rice sheet.
  • Cover with a lid and let it cook for around 30-40 seconds.
  • The crêpe is done when it looks translucent. Now, add some filling along the edge of the crêpe.
  • Use a spatula to roll it up. Alternatively, you can flip it onto an oiled large plate and roll the crêpes there, but I find the first method less messy.
Roll the rice sheet to encase the filling.
  • Remember to wipe the skillet and stir the batter between making each crêpe.

Assemble

  • Arrange the rice rolls with blanched bean sprouts, cucumber, Thai basil, and chả lụa. Sprinkle fried shallots onto the rolls.
  • When eating, pour the dipping fish sauce over the rolls and enjoy.
Banh Cuon (Vietnamese steamed rolls)

🌟 Variations

Bánh Cuốn Trứng (Egg-filled Bánh Cuốn)

In the North, people prefer a runny egg in Bánh Cuốn, but in the South, we often use beaten egg.

Personally, I’m a fan of the runny egg. However, with the nonstick skillet method, since it takes longer time to cook the whole egg, the rice crepe can easily dry out.

Banh Cuon with egg filling.
Banh Cuon with egg filling.

How to make:

  • Lightly beat an egg.
  • After pouring the batter onto the skillet, add some beaten egg, tilt, and rotate to spread it evenly, then close the lid. This process is similar to cooking regular Bánh Cuốn.
  • I typically use one egg for three rice rolls.

Bánh Cuốn Tôm (Shrimp-filled Bánh Cuốn)

You could add some minced shrimp to the pork and mushroom mixture or use toasted shrimp flakes (tôm chấy).

Banh Cuon with shrimp filling

Tôm chấy is a popular topping in many Southern and Central savory cakes like Bánh Bèo, Bánh Đúc Mặn, and Bánh Ít Trần.

Bánh Cuốn Chay (Vegan Bánh Cuốn)

For those who are vegetarian or vegan, there’s a version of Bánh Cuốn Chay filled with tofu crumbles and mushrooms, served alongside vegan Nước Chấm.

Or you could skip the filling and serve the steamed rolls with vegan toppings like vegan Chả Lụa or fried tofu.

Bánh Cuốn Ngọt (Sweet Bánh Cuốn)

The Mekong Delta region in Vietnam, also known as Miền Tây, is renowned for its local and traditional desserts. Every time I visit Miền Tây, my sweet tooth is never satisfied. I’m a huge fan of Bánh Da Lợn, Bánh Bò Nướng, and Bánh Chuối Nướng

During my last visit, I stumbled upon Bánh Cuốn Ngọt, a sweet version of Bánh Cuốn filled with coconut and mung bean. It completely blew my mind.

💫 Troubleshooting Tips

There are some trouble you may meet when making Bánh Cuốn

  • If your batter doesn’t stick to your skillet, it means your skillet isn’t hot enough.
  • If your rice sheet doesn’t appear smooth and silky (as shown in the photo below), your skillet is too hot. You’ll notice a sizzling sound similar to cooking Bánh Xèo (sizzling crêpes) when you pour the batter onto your hot skillet.
    • Here’s a tip: after making 1-2 crêpes, your skillet is already hot. Simply warm it up on medium-low heat for around 10 seconds. It’ll be ready for the next crêpe.
unsmooth rice sheets
  • Your crêpe dries out. It’s because you cook it for too long. The edge of the crêpe should just slightly crisp up and the crêpe turns translucent.
A dried-out rice sheet
A dried-out rice sheet
  • This batter produces crêpes that are very thin and prone to tearing. This is intentional, as I aim to make Bánh Cuốn in the traditional thin and delicate style.
    • To make it easier to handle, you can reduce the water in the batter by 0.4 cups (100ml). Alternatively, I pour the batter twice: once for 1 ladle of batter, pour out the excess, then again for another ladle.
    • I prefer my Bánh Cuốn to be as thin as possible, so for my 8-inch (20cm) skillet, I use about 3/4 of my ladle.
    • If I’m making the rice crêpes for Bánh Ướt, I prefer them to be slightly thicker than Bánh Cuốn.
  • Grease your cooking equipment such as plates and spatulas when making Bánh Cuốn, as it can be quite sticky.

🥢 How to serve Bánh Cuốn

Much like Phở, while Northern Phở boasts a clear yet deeply flavorful broth with simple toppings, Southern Phở is renowned for its heartier and more complex nature with a wide choice of toppings and herbs.

Bánh Cuốn also follows this regional pattern!!

There are many ways to serve Bánh Cuốn across Vietnam, from the North to the South. Needless to say, Bánh Cuốn is delicious on its own with just the dipping sauce.

In the North

Northern Vietnamese prefer to keep the accompaniments for Bánh Cuốn simple to allow the delicate rice sheets to shine.

A close-up photo of a plate filled with steamed Banh Cuon, a traditional Vietnamese dish. Delicate and translucent rice flour crepes are skillfully rolled, revealing a savory filling of ground pork, mushrooms, and fragrant herbs. The dish is garnished with a sprinkling of fried shallots and served with a side of tangy fish sauce. The vibrant colors and textures of the dish create an inviting and appetizing presentation.

Some traditional and popular toppings for Bánh Cuốn in Hanoi are:

  • Fried Tofu: an age-old tradition, it’s not as popular nowadays.
  • Grilled Pork: it is often served in a bowl of fish sauce broth, quite similar to Bún Chả.
  • Chả Quế (cinnamon pork sausage): Northern people love eating Bánh Cuốn with Chả Quế rather than Chả Lụa like in the South.
  • Chả Mực (fried squid cake): a delicacy from Hạ Long (if you know Ha Long Bay).
  • Ruốc (pork floss): sometimes I find people also enjoy eating Bánh Cuốn with pork floss.

The dipping sauce is also kept simple, made with a balance of fish sauce, sugar, calamansi, ground pepper, sliced chili (or dried chili flakes), and just a bit of garlic. It’s often served warm.

Sometimes, local people like to add the essence of Cà Cuống , a giant waterbug highly prized in Vietnam. I’ve never tried this since I find the combination of all other ingredients to be good enough.

In some areas in the North like Hải Phòng province, the dipping sauce is diluted with pork broth instead of water. It results in a richer umami flavor that is simply delicious.

While Southern people pour the fish sauce over Bánh Cuốn, Northern people like to dip Bánh Cuốn into the bowl of fish sauce, similar to eating Japanese Tsukemen.

Tbh, I’m more of a fan of Hanoi Bánh Cuốn than Saigon Bánh Cuốn. I always find the rice sheets in Hanoi more delicate, and I LOVE the runny egg filling (it’s only in Hanoi).

Bánh Cuốn, Cà Phê Trứng (egg coffee), and Chả Cá Lã Vọng (turmeric fish with dill) are always at the top of my list of must-try foods when traveling to Hanoi.

In the South

Southern people enjoy Bánh Cuốn and Bánh Ướt like a rice noodle salad.

People serve them with a salad-like mix of blanched bean sprouts, salad, cucumber, herbs (mint/Thai basil/Vietnamese coriander) and sometimes even with pickled carrots & daikon.

Southern Banh Cuon

The dipping fish sauce in the South is slightly sweeter than the Northern version. It’s a staple in many Southern dishes like Bún Thịt Nướng, Bún Chả Giò, or Bún Bò Xào.

In the South, the toppings for Bánh Cuốn & Bánh Ướt are also quite versatile:

  • Chả Lụa (Vietnamese ham) and Chả Chiên (the fried version)
  • Nem Chua (fermented pork sausage)
  • (the shredded pork in Cơm Tấm platter)
  • Bánh Tôm (shrimp & sweet potato fritters)
  • Chả Giò (Vietnamese egg rolls)
  • Chả Cá (fried fish cakes)
  • Bánh Cống (pork & mung bean fritters)

In the Central

In addition to the classic Bánh Cuốn and the renowned Bánh Ướt Thịt Nướng in Huế, people in the central regions love to enjoy eating Bánh Ướt with toasted shrimp flakes (Tôm Chấy).

In the Southern Central region (yes, I’m from Nha Trang), we enjoy Bánh Ướt in a similar way to Bánh Hỏi. It’s served with roasted pork belly, drizzled with Mỡ Hành (scallion oil), and enjoyed with dipping fish sauce.

We even have a special dish called Bánh Đập, which is a rice sheet Bánh Ướt stacked with toasted Bánh Tráng Mè (Vietnamese sesame cracker) and then dipped in Mắm Nêm (fermented anchovy sauce).

🍡 Bánh Cuốn vs. Bánh Ướt

I stumbled upon some Instagram comments debating the difference between Bánh Cuốn and Bánh Ướt . Some argue that they’re the same dish, while others disagree. As a Vietnamese native, born and raised, I’d love to share some insights about these two dishes:

  1. Bánh Cuốn

Cuốn in Vietnamese means “to roll,” while Bánh is a fluid term that basically refers to many sweet and savory dishes containing any types of flour or sometimes Western-influenced desserts. Sometimes, “Bánh” also refers to inedible items like a wheel or a soap bar.

Some examples of “Bánh” in Vietnamese cuisine are:

Banh Cuon (Vietnamese steamed rolls)

Bánh Cuốn originates from Northern Vietnam, and followed Catholics migrating to the Southern region in 1954 (similar to Phở, Bún Thang and Bún Riêu). It’s a crêpe-like roll filled with a mixture of stir-fried pork mince and black ear mushrooms.

In the North, it’s also called Bánh Cuốn Nóng , which means hot rice rolls.

  1. Bánh Ướt

Bánh Ướt is the steamed rice sheets, similar to Bánh Cuốn, but with minimal or no fillings. In the North Central part of Vietnam, it is called “Bánh Mướt”.

The name “Bánh Ướt” is much more popular in the Central and Southern regions. In the North, the unstuffed rice rolls are still known as Bánh Cuốn or occasionally as Bánh Cuốn Chay (Chay in Vietnamese means vegan, vegetarian, or simply “no meat”).

Such as the renowned Bánh Cuốn in Hanoi, Bánh Cuốn Thanh Trì (originating from Thanh Trì village), is typically served cold and without filling.

Of course, it looks nothing like Bánh Cuốn Thanh Trì in Garden Grove, CA.

Banh Cuon Thanh Tri
Bánh Cuốn Thanh Trì in Hanoi

Bánh Ướt Thịt Nướng (grilled pork rice rolls) are a specialty of Huế (you might be familiar with Bún Bò Huế, right?). They look more similar to fresh spring rolls than Bánh Cuốn. The rice sheets for Bánh Ướt Thịt Nướng are thicker than regular Bánh Cuốn and Bánh Ướt.

In Hanoi, there is another comparable dish: Phở Cuốn. The rolls here feature stir-fried beef wrapped in rice sheets.

🥟 Bánh Cuốn vs. Cheung Fun

Cheung Fun (or Hawaiian Look Fun) are Cantonese steamed rolls and a type of Dim Sum.

Cheungfun can be filled with shrimps, char siu pork, ground beef, vegetables or even Youtiao (Chinese doughnut sticks) and served with soy sauce. Meanwhile, Bánh Cuốn has a filling of pork and mushroom mixture, served with blanched bean sprouts, Vietnamese herbs and dipping fish sauce.

Moreover, the rice sheets of Bánh Cuốn are thinner and more delicate than Cheung Fun.

🙋‍♀️ How we make Bánh Cuốn in Vietnam

Prepare the batter

Preparing Bánh Cuốn in the traditional way can be quite labor-intensive and requires a certain level of craftsmanship. Traditionally, Bánh Cuốn is made with only aged rice, and no tapioca starch, cornstarch, or potato starch.

To prepare the batter, aged rice is wet-milled with water. After letting it settle and ferment slightly, the top layer of water is removed and replaced with fresh water. This process is repeated 2 or 3 times.

This process helps make the Bánh Cuốn pliable and delicate even overnight (the flavor is also much better than using starch), eliminates any lingering aged rice aroma. It’s quite similar to the Autolyse process in baking.

Steam the rice-crêpes

The steamer for Bánh Cuốn is made by stretching a piece of elastic white cloth tightly over the diameter of a pot and securing it with a tightening metal clamp to create a tightly-stretched membrane. There is a hole along the edge to allow steam to escape and cook the crêpes.

banh cuon steamer
Bánh Cuốn steamer

During the steaming process, the cooks use a ladle to scoop the batter and pour it over the cloth. They then use the same ladle to spread the batter thinly across the surface, creating a thin layer of crêpes.

Making Banh Cuon

Next, they close the lid to trap the steam and cook the crêpe. Once the crêpe is cooked, the cooks use a bamboo flat stick to lift it from the steamer and place it on a dish. Then, they add fillings and roll it up immediately after pouring another ladle of batter and waiting for the next crêpe.

This process is executed quickly and rhythmically. For me, Bánh Cuốn is one of the most unique Vietnamese dishes, and making it is truly an art.

Here is a video demonstrating the traditional way to make Bánh Cuốn Thanh Trì . In Vietnam, Bánh Cuốn is mostly crafted by aunties and grandmas.

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Delicious Vietnamese Xoi Man - A delectable plate of Vietnamese savory sticky rice adorned with flavorful toppings, a delightful treat from Vietnamese cuisine.

Xôi Mặn (savory sticky rice)

In Vietnam, Xôi (sticky rice) is a popular breakfast as well as a staple for festive occasions like Lunar New Year.

This Xôi Mặn is the Vietnamese adaptation of Chinese Lo Mai Gai and can be found throughout Ho Chi Minh City.

Bo Ne (Vietnamese Steak and Eggs)

Bò Né (Vietnamese Steak & Eggs)

Bò Né, a popular breakfast in Southern Vietnam, features sizzling beef served alongside sunny-side-up fried eggs and Banh Mi baguette.

My go-to breakfast when I return home is always a combo of Bò Né and Vietnamese iced coffee.

Close-up photo of a delicious Banh Mi Pate sandwich. The sandwich features a crusty baguette filled with layers of savory pate, fresh vegetables, cilantro, and pickled carrots.

Banh Mi Sandwich

Bánh Mì is cheap, quick yet delicious, making it a favorite breakfast for most Vietnamese.

The classic Bánh Mì features Vietnamese cold cuts, house liver pâté, and house mayo.

However, it’s just as tasty when paired with lemongrass chicken or crispy pork belly.

Thank you for trying my recipe!! Don’t forget to stay in touch with me on InstagramFacebookPinterest, and YouTube 🥰.

Banh Cuon (Vietnamese steamed rolls)

Bánh Cuốn & Bánh Ướt – Vietnamese Steamed Rice Rolls

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Bánh Cuốn and Bánh Ướt are breakfast staples in Vietnam. They are steamed rice rolls stuffed with minced pork and mushrooms, then served with a delicious dipping fish sauce! Making Bánh Cuốn at home is much easier than you think.
5 from 2 votes
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine Vietnamese
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

Rice batter (I highly recommend using a scale to measure)

  • 250 g rice flour (or rice starch) (around 2¼ cup)
  • 120 g tapioca starch (around 1 cup)
  • 30 g potato starch (around 2.5 tbsp) (You could use cornstarch or tapioca starch but I highly recommend potato starch)
  • 1.1 liter water (around 4⅖ cup) (You could reduce it to 1 liter / 4 cup)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tbsp cooking oil

Filling

  • 0.7 pound ground pork (320g)
  • 1/8 cup dried & pre-sliced wood ear Mushrooms (15g)
  • 1 shallot
  • ½ bulb onion
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (to your taste)
  • tbsp ground pepper (to your taste)

Dipping Sauce

  • cup fish sauce (to your taste)
  • ¼ cup sugar (to your taste)
  • cup water
  • 2 tbsp lime / lemon juice or vinegar (5%) (to your taste)
  • Chili (minced) (to your taste)

Accompaniments

  • Chả Lụa (sliced) (optional)
  • Bean Sprouts (blanched)
  • Cucumber (cut into matchsticks)
  • Fried Shallots
  • Herbs (Thai basil, Vietnamese coriander…)

Instructions
 

Prepare the batter (at least 1 hour before cooking)

  • Mix rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch with water until smooth, ensuring there are no lumps.
  • Let the mixture rest for at least one hour, ideally overnight in the refrigerator.
  • After resting, you'll find that the flour has settled at the bottom with a layer of water on top. Carefully remove this water with a ladle, being careful not to disturb the flour layer.
  • Measure the amount of water removed and add back an equal quantity of fresh water to the bowl.
  • Add salt and cooking oil to the mixture, then mix thoroughly.

Prepare the filling

  • Soaking the mushrooms in room temperature water for 30 minutes. Afterward, wash and rinse them thoroughly. Chop them coarsely to preserve their crunchy texture.
  • Coarsely chop the onions and shallots.
  • Heat some cooking oil in a pan. Sauté the shallots until they become fragrant.
  • Add the ground pork, mushrooms, and onions. Season with fish sauce, sugar, and ground black pepper to your taste. Cook the mixture for just 2-3 minutes, then set it aside

Prepare the dipping sauce

  • Whisk all ingredients together to make the dipping sauce. Set it aside.

Steam the rice sheets

  • Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat the skillet with a thin layer of cooking oil, using a paper towel to spread it evenly.
  • Lift the skillet and pour a ladleful of batter onto it. Tilt and rotate the pan to spread the batter evenly, then pour any excess batter back into the bowl. Aim to make the rice sheet as thin as possible.
    You could spray some water onto the rice sheet to provide additional moisture for steaming.
  • Cover the skillet with a lid and allow it to cook for 30-40 seconds.
  • Once the rice sheet appears translucent, place some filling along one edge of the crêpe.
  • Using a spatula, carefully roll up the rice sheet. Alternatively, you can flip it onto a large oiled plate and roll the sheet there. I just find the first way less messy.
  • Ensure to wipe the skillet clean and stir the batter between making each rice roll.

Assemble & Serve

  • Arrange the rice rolls on a plate alongside blanched bean sprouts, cucumber slices, Thai basil leaves, and chả lụa. Sprinkle fried shallots over the rolls.
  • To enjoy, drizzle the dipping fish sauce generously over the rolls and enjoy.

Notes

When making Bánh Cuốn, you may encounter some common issues such as:
  • the batter not sticking to the skillet.
  • the rice sheet not being smooth and silky.
  • the rice sheet tearing or drying out easily.
In the “Troubleshooting Tips” section, I provide clear explanations for addressing these problems.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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