Origin and How to Make Rice Paper
Rice paper – banh trang was first made in the South of Vietnam and then its popularity spread throughout the country. It has different names as you move further afield. In the North, we call it banh da or banh cha in central Vietnam.
Rice paper is made from a mixture of rice powder, cassava flour, and water in a specific ratio. When combined, they create a milky liquid. When the liquid is ready, you use a coconut shell spoon to pour a thin layer onto a cotton fabric cover over a boiling pot of water. Once it cooks (or solidifies), use a thin bamboo stick to hang it on a bamboo woven mat in the sun. Because it depends on how sunny it is, the drying time is flexible. When you check it, and it breaks easily, then it’s ready to use.
You can make the rice paper thin or thick – it depends on its purpose. We use the thin version for wrapping food, and the thicker texture for grilling. Mung bean flour, corn flour, and coconut water are sometimes added to the liquid to make the rice paper taste better, along with some seasoning like pepper, salt, or sugar. You can also choose the topping: sesame seeds, shredded coconut meat, onion, and sometimes tiny shrimp. It’s all up to your creativeness and personal taste.
Where to Buy Rice Paper
It sounds like an odd question to ask, but surprisingly, many people have searched for the answer. So here you go. You can easily buy rice paper on any street-side grocery shop, local market, or supermarket in Vietnam. If you are not in Vietnam, it’s available on Amazon. Type in “Red Rose Rice Paper” brand on the Amazon search tool, and you’ll find it. Now place your order! If you are looking for the best, then rice paper from Tay Ninh, a province in the northwest of Saigon, is your best bet. If you are around Tay Ninh, don’t forget to get some, or maybe a lot!
Grilled Rice Paper – Vietnamese Pizza
Grilled Rice Paper (Banh Trang Nuong), or so-called Vietnamese pizza, is one of the favorite snacks in Vietnam. Rice paper is slathered with butter then grilled on coals with some cheese, eggs (either quail or chicken eggs), green onion, shredded pork, chicken or beef, and maybe some tiny shrimp on top. This combination is a common version of banh trang nuong (grilled rice paper) in Saigon. However, there is no definitive “traditional” way of making it. With many different types of rice paper, along with varied toppings, the creative Vietnamese can make up to 30 different options.
The most popular styles of banh trang nuong are from Da Lat and Phan Thiet and are widely available in Saigon. The difference between the Da Lat style and Phan Thiet style lies in the topping. You will find rice paper from Phan Thiet with veggies (cabbage), whereas in Da Lat, you will find it mainly with green onion.
Mixed Rice Paper
Mixed rice paper (Banh Trang Tron) is a Vietnamese street food made with local authentic ingredients. You can find it on almost every street corner around Ho Chi Minh City; from schools and universities to small, inconspicuous alleyways. Just look for ladies in conical hats, with their stalls displaying a set of colorful jars and a big bag of rice paper.
The dish is easy to make and its flavor is very unique. Long strips of rice paper, some julienned green mango, one or two boiled quail eggs, shredded beef jerky and grilled dried squid are combined in a big bowl and seasoned with shrimp salt, chilli powder and fried onion. A couple of teaspoons of vegetable oil and a little beef sauce are also poured in, and topped with roasted peanuts and coriander. The preparation is completed by adding some drops of kumquat juice to boost the fragrance of the dish. Then the ingredients are mixed until they become a delicious salad.
The Nem Cuon or Cha Cuon in Vietnamese has a crunchy exterior. Before being deep or pan-fried, the spring roll is wrapped in rice paper (banh trang) with a mixture of egg, onion, garlic, minced pork, and other ingredients inside. There is no strict rule on what the ingredients should be. It can be carrot, taro, sweet potato, cellophane noodles, coriander, mushroom, shrimp, crab, etc. Let your imagination run wild.
Goi Cuon is another way to have your rice paper wrapped roll. Summer roll is a crisp, clean hand-crafted roll that isn’t fried (or cooked). It contains a vegetable-based mixture with some cooked crab, shrimp, or pork. Dip it in the fish sauce and feel the magic happening in your mouth.
Banh Trang Cuon
Stuffed Rice Paper Roll (Banh Trang Cuon) is the younger brother. This dish is a recent invention, and since its debut has never failed to satisfy foodies hunting for its great taste. Wrapped in moistened orange rice paper, and stuffed with shredded mango, quail eggs, salted tiny shrimp, shredded pork, beef jerky, and coriander, the roll has a beautiful, tasty look. You then pour oil, spicy sauce, spicy salt, mayonnaise sauce, and sprinkle peanuts over the top. Finally, it’s ready to eat.