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 cuontom or banh cuonnhan 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 cuondac biet (a.k.a. banh cuonthap cam ), the sampler plate.
published today, June 20, 2019. in the New York Times -
Though the restaurants in Little Saigon, run by an older generation of Vietnamese immigrants, don’t tend to veer from traditional fillings, the Phams, when they’re feeling more experimental, color the batter a pale yellow with a pinch of turmeric, or make vegetarian versions with a jackfruit filling, seasoned with soy instead of fish sauce. They’ve also tried gently steaming an egg in the noodle as it cooks, and serving it soft and runny.
Banh cuon, the delicate rice noodle steamed over cloth, is a specialty at Banh Cuon Luu Luyen, in the area of Orange County, Calif., known as Little Saigon. Credit: Coral Von Zumwalt for The New York Times