Up until about 5 years ago, I always thought banh cuon was traditionally Lao, because as a child my mother cooked this for us on a regular basis so I just assumed this was a “Lao” dish. But as I’m learning more about different cultures and their food, I’ve come to realise that banh cuon is originally from Northern Vietnam. Hey! to all my friends from Vietnam!
In fact, many Lao dishes is influenced by Vietnamese cuisine, thanks to the influx of Vietnamese people coming into Laos during the French administration. And in a lot of ways Vietnamese food is quite similar to Lao food. There’s a lot of emphasis on using fresh herbs and local ingredients in the food and there is more time preparing for a meal than cooking it. But even though banh cuon is not traditionally Lao (the name itself is of Vietnamese origin), we’ve been cooking it for such a long time now that it’s become part of our culture. That’s the beauty of food; it can be shared, borrowed, adapted, re-created, it brings people together and it will always be a part of our lives.
So if you are looking for something different to try, why not give these delicious rice rolls a go? It’s a perfect midweek meal that is not too heavy and not too light. Actually, it’s perfect to eat any time of the week – and you can add prawns to the mix or cha lua (Vietnamese ham) to make it a bit more substantial. Traditionally, rice rolls are steamed but this is a much simpler version and this can be done over any stove top using a non stick frying pan.
Tip 1: To ensure your rice roll turns out properly, use a good quality non-stick frying pan. You can go for a 26cm frying pan which will give you approximately 20 rice rolls with this recipe. I’ve used a 22cm frying pan which made about 45 rice rolls.
Tip 2: If you are able to get someone to help out this will speed up the cooking time by half. You can create a mini production line where one person makes the rice rolls, and the other does the filling and rolling.
Tip 3: It’s best to fill the rice rolls and roll them out as you go – one by one. Don’t cook up all the batter before filling them out. They will stick together and you will end up with a tower of plain sticky rice rolls which will be difficult to separate.
Ingredients – this recipe will serve 3-4 people.
For the rice roll mixture:
2 C Rice flour
2 C Tapioca starch
1 TB Salt
5 TB vegetable oil
8 C Water
For the mince mixture
500g pork mince
1 C Dried black fungus (optional)
2 Gloves garlic diced
1 Onion diced
2 TB vegetable Oil
3 TB Soy sauce
3 TB Fish sauce
2 TB Sugar
Crushed roasted peanuts, fried garlic and coriander for garnish.
For the dipping sauce
1/2 Cup boiling water
1/2 Cup castor sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp msg (optional)
3 TB fish sauce
Juice of one lemon
2 gloves garlic minced
1-2 red chillies sliced
To make the dipping sauce, boil water in a kettle. Once boiled, combine the water, sugar, salt and msg to a bowl. Stir to combine until everything has dissolved. Add fish sauce, lemon, minced garlic and chillies and top with crushed peanuts.
Step 1. Making the rice roll mixture.
Combine rice flour, tapioca flour, salt, oil and water together into a large mixing bowl. Whisk together until it is all combined. Set aside.
Step 2: Soak the black fungus.
Soak black fungus in warm water for at least 10 minutes, drain and slice thinly. Set aside.
Step 3: Making the mince mixture
Using a wok, heat oil over medium to high heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook for 2 minutes or until the onions have turned translucent. Now add the mince, black fungus, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar and cook for 5 minutes or until the pork is cooked through. Set aside.
Step 4: Cooking the rice roll
First of all, get your work station organised. See picture below.
1. Large plate (to put rice rolls onto once you’re done rolling)
2. Mince mixture
3. Clean chopping board
4. Rice roll mixture
5. Small bowl of oil and a brush
6. Frying pan
4.1: Using a cooking brush, put a small amount of oil onto the frying pan on medium heat. (You don’t want the temperature on too high as it will cook the rice roll too quickly and dry out). Even though it’s a non stick pan, the rice roll mixture will tend to stick to the rim of the pan if no oil is used.
4.2: Using a soup ladle put a spoonful of the mixture onto the fry pan. Swirl the mixture around so it completely covers the pan. It should look like a white crepe pancake.
Cover the pan with a lid for 30 seconds.
4.3: Very carefully, turn the pan over onto a clean surface by flipping the pan over. It pays to do this quite quickly. Do not slide it onto the surface. If you slide it out, the bottom of the crepe will stick to the surface and you will not be able to roll it out properly.
4.4: Place a desert spoon full of the pork mince onto the rice roll.
4.5: Fold the bottom half of the roll to cover the mince mixture. Fold the sides inwards then roll it away from you. And there you have it, a yummy rice roll ready to be eaten.
Continue doing the same until you have finished the rice roll mixture and mince mixture.
To serve, you can cut them up into pieces and garnish with coriander and serve with sweet chilli dipping sauce or soy sauce and chillies.
You can also use bean sprouts, mint and cucumber to garnish for texture and to give the dish a fresh twist.
Happy cooking, happy eating!