Choose plain rice sheets ( banh cuon Thanh Trì) to savor the purest expression of rice and gauge the cook’s craft (silky thin ones that are tender-springy are ideal). Or, go for filled ones such as banh cuon tom or banh cuon nhan thit , which respectively signal a filling of ground shrimp or pork, woodear mushroom and onion. Standard garnishes include hanh phi , fried shallot and rau tron , a salad-ish mixture of blanched bean sprouts, cucumber and chopped cilantro and/or mint.
After settling on a banh cuon style, consider extras to add textural and flavor contrasts plus fun. The usual options include: Viet-style sausage (unfried gio lua or fried cha chien ), fried tofu ( dau hu chien ), crunchy fritters featuring mung beans ( banh cong ) and/or shrimp ( banh tom ), crisp pieces of cha gio imperial rolls and grilled pork ( thit nuong ). When you can’t decide or just want to try everything, go for banh cuon dac biet (a.k.a. banh cuon thap cam ), the sampler plate.
Bahn cuon takes center stage at Bahn Cuon Luu Luyen. (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)