Banh cuon, Vietnamese steamed rice rolls, are usually filled with crumbled meat. Traditionally, to make these flat rice noodles, you secure a piece of cloth to a pot. The batter is then added to the cloth and steamed until it’s fully cooked, which takes just a minute or two. (This method reminds me of Hong Kong cloth-pulled cheong fun, another silky-smooth rice noodle.) A special flat wooden spatula is used to lift the noodle, then it’s then stuffed with the savory filling and rolled into a little log.
In addition to that steaming method though, you can actually use a nonstick skillet to make banh cuon and get the same amazing chewy texture. I’m using a banh cuon flour mix that you can easily get at an Asian grocery store or online. It takes out the guesswork (and all brands have good instructions on the package on how to successfully make rice noodles at home). With no meat in the filling, this recipe is vegan, and still packed with flavor.
These rolls are at their best served with fresh mint and Thai basil, crunchy mung bean sprouts, and fried shallots, and julienned carrot and cucumber. To make nuoc cham chay (vegan Vietnamese dipping sauce), simply combine these ingredients to taste: freshly squeezed lime juice, granulated sugar or maple syrup, minced fresh chiles or red pepper flakes, and nuoc mam chay (vegan fish sauce) if you can find it. —WoonHeng Chia
- Prep time 30 minutes
- Cook time 45 minutes
- makes about 18
bot banh cuon (rice flour for wet rice paper)
kosher salt, plus more to taste
Neutral oil (such as vegetable), for greasing and cooking
medium shallots, minced
medium garlic cloves, minced
vegan ground pork, thawed if needed (I used OmniPork)
dried wood ear mushrooms, rehydrated and sliced
light soy sauce
dark soy sauce
nuoc mam chay (vegan fish sauce), or 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
For serving: fried shallots, mint leaves, basil leaves, mung bean sprouts, pickled julienned carrot, julienned cucumber, nuoc cham chay (vegan dipping sauce, see Author Notes)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the bot banh cuon, 4½ cups of room-temperature water, and the salt until well combined and no lumps remain. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of oil. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes while you work on the filling.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook the shallots until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook until aromatic, 30 seconds to 1 minute, adding more oil along the way if the pan looks dry. Add the vegan pork. Use the back of the spatula to break it up, then stir it into the shallot and garlic. After 2 to 3 minutes, once the vegan pork has slightly crisped, stir in the mushrooms. Cook for another minute or so. Add the soy sauces, nuoc mam chay, and white pepper and stir-fry for a couple minutes. Taste and season with salt or sauces accordingly. Make sure there are no big lumps, breaking up the mixture if needed.
- Grease a clean work surface, such as a cutting board or sheet pan. Add oil to a small bowl and have a brush at the ready.
- Place a medium to large nonstick skillet on the stove, brush the inside of a skillet with a thin coat of oil, and turn on the heat to medium.
- Stir the batter. To the skillet, add a thin layer of batter (¼ to ⅓ cup, depending on your pan size) to cover the bottom of the pan. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the batter is set (it’s okay if it bubbles up).
- Remove the pan from the heat and invert the skillet onto the greased work surface, so the cooked rice roll falls out. (You can encourage it with a spatula if needed.) Spread about 1 tablespoon of filling in a straight line down the middle, then roll into a slender cylinder.
- Repeat until all batter is used, wiping the skillet between batches if needed. Any extra filling can be sprinkled on top of the rolls.
- Sprinkle the rice rolls with fried shallots and your pick of the toppings listed above.