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Banh Cuon making lesson from mom w/ step-by-step photos

So here it is, my promised banh cuon report...

I know it's not sexy to start a post w/ a bunch of caveats or qualifiers, but in this case I must. A few things to keep in mind as you read this:

1. My mom doesn't use the traditional method of making banh cuon, which I believe uses a tightly draped cloth over a pan. The batter is poured over the fine mesh and what seeps through becomes the ever-so-thin, delicate rice "crepe." No, my mom likes to use her super-slippery, very American Teflon pan solely devoted to banh cuon. A girl doesn't need to apologize for shortcuts or adaptation. As a result, this crepe may have a slightly different texture than other versions.

2. My mom uses a fair amount of tapioca starch, as well as rice flour. The tapioca gives it more chew and spring, which some people like while others don't. If you like a more soft, tender crepe, then try reducing the tapioca. I'm going to experiment w/ ratios.

3. My mom usually doesn't adorn her banh cuon w/ much. No mint or cilantro or Viet bologna. Her nuoc cham is much lighter than I make or have in restaurants.

4. I haven't tested the below recipe since I made it w/ her. It's nice to test a recipe and see how amounts and steps unfold before sharing it publicly, but I'm hoping that some hounds will join me in testing it together. I know there's room for perfecting and shaping it towards one's tastes, so I hope this will inspire some of you to try it at home and let me know what you think!

So first the recipe and then a link to photos describing each step. I think the measurements are a little off, as we had more filling to batter and mom had to whip up a little more batter, but you'll be able to make the necessary adjustments. I thought having a photo link for each step would be cool, but that uploading would have taken forever, so click on the Kodak Gallery link below.

Carb Lover's Mom's Banh Cuon

For filling:
2/3 c. yellow onion, diced
1.5 lbs. ground pork (not too lean)
2-3 TB fish sauce
Black pepper
1/2-3/4 c. rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, diced (reserve soaking liquid)
1/2 c. tree ear mushrooms, sliced
1/3 c. green onions, chopped

For garnishes:
2 tsp. neutral oil
dried onion

generous amount of oil
1/2 c. yellow onion, sliced
1/2 c. green onions, chopped

For batter:
2 c. rice flour
2.5 c tapioca starch
5 c. water
2 TB neutral oil

For filling: Saute 1/3 c. of diced yellow onion in a little oil. Add ground pork, breaking up meat. Saute til browned and any liquid has evaporated. Season with fish sauce and liberal amount of freshly ground black pepper. Add shiitake mushrooms and reserved soaking liquid (avoid grit). Saute til liquid has absorbed. Add wood ear mushrooms. Add green onions. Add remaining 1/3 c. diced yellow onion and saute til well incorporated and absorbed into the mix. Savory mixture should be relatively dry. Taste and reseason if necessary. Set aside.

For fried onion garnish: Fry dried onions or shallots in oil til brown and crispy. Be careful to not burn. Set aside.

For additional garnish: Saute sliced yellow and green onions in good amount of oil til caramelized and very soft. Separate oil from onions and set each aside.

For batter: Mix all ingredients and whisk til smooth and well blended.

To make banh cuon: Grease large plate w/ a little reserved onion-infused oil. Pre-heat approx. 10" Teflon (or other good nonstick) pan over medium heat. Ladle in about a half cup of batter, quickly swirl to evenly coat, and then quickly pour excess back into batter bowl. Don't invert for too long, as the crepe will fall out. (Happened on my first try.) Let sit undisturbed on heat for a few seconds to solidify. Edge will start to release itself. Little bubbles or holes are fine...

**Edit: Pan should be lightly greased w/ paper towel moistened w/ oil every now and then.

Invert onto plate using fingers in one swift motion. This takes some practice, but batter is cheap and easy to make. If you mess up, then save and eat w/ nuoc cham and pork filling on top. Add about a heaping TB of filling into crepe. Fold in the sides and roll. Place in oiled dish and brush on a little oil to each as you mound them. Finish w/ reserved onions, saving fried onions for table garnish. Once you practice and find your rhythm, you'll be able to get your next crepe on heat and roll while it's setting up. Would be fun w/ a partner. Repeat for each roll, lightly greasing plate beforehand.

Serve warm w/ your favorite nuoc cham and additional herbs. I normally like to dip each bite into nuoc cham instead of pouring over. Can be covered and stored in fridge for a few days. Warm in microwave. My mom has frozen some before, but it's not the same. Let me know if you have any questions or if there are inconsistencies in my recipe (I'm tired). Enjoy!

Step-by-step photo recipe:

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  1. Thanks for the recipe and the yummy photos! I am going to try to make them this coming weekend (was planning on finally going to Argyle Street to get the makings for Vun, so this will work out perfectly).

    One question - I'm not familiar with dried onion (my recipe for Banh Cuon doesn't include it). Is it sold pre-packaged in Vietnamese stores, or just what?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Akatonbo

      The traditional (and tastier, IMO) method is to use shallots, but my mom uses the basic dried onion you can find in spice aisles or in bulk sections. Let me know how it turns out for you!

    2. Beautiful, thanks. Your stove looks alot like mine-- especially the coloration around the burners. Hehe.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BackyardChef

        I know! I was a little embarrassed when I saw that in my photos! Oh well...proof that I really DO cook. BTW, nice thing about mom visiting is that my stove is sparkling clean (for now)!

      2. I love it when my mother makes banh cuon, and I can eat far too many of them - usually before they make it to the table. My mother also uses a regular nonstick pan instead of the more laborious pouring-through-cloth method. I'm not sure how her recipe compares with yours, since I've never watched her put everything together (I just enjoy the final result), but it seems similar. I do know, however, that since my father is absolutely fanatical about frying things (as in, he's seriously against any "excess" use of fat of any sort), that my mother has been able to successfully make the fried onions by microwaving them on a paper napkin - I believe just sliced up - until they look (and taste) just like ones fried in oil.

        But this makes me want to try my hand at making banh cuon - or maybe I'll just call home to my mother and tell her I'm coming home for dinner!

        4 Replies
        1. re: jacinthe

          "Fried onions": is she starting with raw onions or dried? No oil at all?

          1. re: Aromatherapy

            I think she very lightly mists them with olive oil, and I believe she starts with raw onions. But when I talk to her this weekend I'll ask.

            1. re: jacinthe

              Please do, that sounds like a worthwhile tip.

            2. re: Aromatherapy

              My mom does proper fried onions (no objections to fat in this family), but she says that microwaving the sliced onions before frying speeds up the browning process. She covers a large plate with paper towels and spreads the onions in a thin layer on top. I'm not sure how long she microwaves them for, just until the onions start to look a little dried out.

              I've never done it with onions myself, but I know it works well with cubed potatoes to be made into home fries.

              I'm learning a lot from this thread--my mom doesn't make actual banh cuon, only the toppings!

          2. Thanks for the great post and excellent pictures as always! My mom just uses a non-stick pan too. I'm sending a link to her - she'll enjoy it - she still can't quite understand the concept of people on an Internet board constantly talking about food. Then, like Jacinthe, I'll call home and say I want Banh Cuon for dinner too!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Rubee

              I should send my mom the link, too, although she might have some difficulty w/ navigating. When I'm taking photos to post, she always says, "Don't take a picture of my face or hands!"

            2. Thank you! I think this is the missing appetizer I need for my dinner party! I was looking for something cold that everyone likes, but that no one makes at home.

              As for your stove, have you gotten yourself a bottle of Barkeeper's Friend yet? I finally got some after everyone on this board raved about it, and my stove loves me now. But I'm THAT lazy, so I still cover it in foil.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Pei

                Yes, I have Barkeeper's Friend, but I don't use it enough, as you can see. My mom enjoys cleaning when she visits (I swear!), so she pulled out the Barkeeper's and it's now sparkling clean. I like using BF on my All-Clad pan too.

                BTW, I normally would serve the banh cuon warm, but you can serve at room temp. for a party, I suppose. I just don't like it cold. Let me know how it goes!

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  Yeah, definitely not cold cold. But it can stand to sit around as people arrive. I need something to keep the early birds out of the kitchen while the latecomers trickle in. Otherwise they come bother me and steal things off serving plates

                  1. re: Carb Lover

                    slight side track here--if your store stocks it, Bon Ami powder is usually cheaper than BF. Their motto is "Never Scratched Yet!" with a cute little chick on the label. I found out about it years ago when the boat shop rec'd it for our fiberglass ski boat. It's all I use in my house--doesn't scratch finishes and it has NO chlorine bleach.

                    1. re: toodie jane

                      I believe my local OSH carries Bon Ami. I have a nearly-full container of Barkeeper's under the sink, so my only problem is finding the motivation for cleaning! Let's just say that I'm known for my cooking more than my cleaning. ;-)

                      Next time mom is in town, I'll have her demonstrate another recipe since this one was so well-received!

                2. As my six year old daughter would say "AWESOME!"

                  Now all I need is time to go home and try the recipe. Thank you and thank your mom.

                  1. Oh my god. Banh Cuon is my favorite. I love the fact that your mom is a minimalist of toppings. You could cover the planet in all the extra mung bean sprouts that don't get eaten at Vietnamese restaurants.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Dcfoodblog

                      Haha...mung bean sprouts are one of the few things I detest!

                    2. Great report, pics. Your crepes with a little extra chew and spring sound like the perfect summer wrapper to me. Think I'll give it try, thanks for the guidance!

                      1. Thank you! I crave it after seeing all of the pics. I think I will try to make it soon. :)

                        1. I can't believe I forgot to ask this before going to the market tonight:

                          Carb Lover, did you use rice flour or sweet rice flour (usually the mochiko brand)? The Korean market I went to had both, but I know usually people only see the sweet rice flour in the box (same as used for mochi).


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Pei

                            Just regular rice flour. Refer to the photo in my album.

                          2. CL, another "thank you" to you and your Mom for sharing banh cuon making with us! Your pictures are, as usual, terrific - especially the filling! I just happen to have rice flour and tapioca starch in my pantry, but as a nod to my WW program I may try it with ground turkey (I know, not as good but better than none!)

                            1. I tried it - I never thought I could make banh cuon, they seemed much too difficult. Your recipe was great - easy and tasty. I had a little trouble getting the crepes thin enough at first, but soon (with the help of my daughter) I had a nice rhythm going. My family enjoyed them. Thank you!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: mirage

                                Thanks so much for reporting back! Good to hear that the recipe worked for you. To get the crepe as thin as possible, you can swirl the batter in the hot pan as quickly as possible and then dump out excess or you can thin out w/ some additional water.

                                Just curious...what did you think of the tender to chewy balance? Did you have enough batter for the filling?

                                1. re: Carb Lover

                                  We did the swirl and dump method and I think, after the first few, did pretty well for beginners! I really liked the crepes being slightly chewy. We were a bit inconsistent, with some having more filling than others. We did have a little extra filling but we enjoyed the seasoned meat separately. Now that we have a better idea of how much filling we prefer in our crepes, I know next time they'll be perfect! Thank you for making this fun/tasty recipe accessible

                              2. Yet another success story, thanks Carb Lover and your mom. I steamed the leftover the following night and found it tasted even better. I used the microwave method for the shallot and also made a dipping sauce with fish sauce and Thai bird chilli. It was delicious.


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: shushu

                                  shushu, this may sound obvious, but can you expand on the microwave method for crisping onions?

                                2. Awesome, indeed. While I'm an adventurous eater, I'm not a very adventurous cook. But this recipe looks tempting enough and, with the aid of the photos and Carb Lover's detailed instructions, sufficiently simple enough that I might try it. What are tree ear mushrooms and (sorry) what would you say are neutral oils? Is Canola one? (Always trying to steer towards the healthy fats).

                                  Also, forgive me for not knowing already, but, Carb Lover, have you posted other lessons with your mom here? I searched on "lesson" in Home Cooking but didn't see any others. I would be interested in seeing others you've posted if they are out there.

                                  Thank you to you and your mom for sharing.

                                  (P.S. I agree with your profile. Midwest is underrated. Never tried a crackerbarrel though, will have venture out, I guess. )


                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    Shushu, thanks for the report back and photo! I'm so happy that others have had success in replicating this dish! See, it's not that hard, right?

                                    To TDQ: Tree ear mushrooms are aka wood ear mushrooms aka black fungus. There may be other names. They are very dark brown, almost black, round and disc-like, and curl around the edges. You can find them in dried form in Asian groceries near the dried shiitakes. They are rehydrated and give a chewiness to the filling.

                                    This is the clearest, step-by-step lesson from mom that I've posted. The others have been recipes or tangentially refer to mom. There's a pho post w/ photos, but my personal recipe has changed quite a bit since then. I don't have time to search now but you could search under "mom" for keyword and "carb lover" for author...that might render some results.

                                    Also, you should check out posts from Alice Patis, who posted a wonderful series of cooking lessons and photos w/ her Vietnamese mother. Nice home style dishes that you wouldn't necessarily see at restaurants.

                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      For a neutral oil, I like grapeseed much better than canola.

                                    2. Wow! This looks amazing and fairly easy to make too (and from what others have written, really is easy to make!) I've never tried this, but I love Vietnamese food. I think I'll try it out! Thanks for the step-by-step and pics!

                                      1. Thanks for the recipe and instructions they really got me going. I think an improvement on the pan technique is to use a bain marie (double boil) method. Fill the pan with water and place a smaller foil pie pan inside it on top of the boiling water. Then pour a set amount of batter into the foil and cover. Then take the foil pan out, sprinkle in some meat, and scape it out of the pan. You could also wipe the bottom of the foil pan with oil to ease seperation.

                                        I find with this method you can get the desired silky smooth batter texture. Using a pan only, I often found I get these little crispy wisps inside the batter and ruins the texture. I could avoid it somewhat by filling the pan with a lot of batter but then the crepe was much too thick for a proper banh cuon.

                                        On the question of batter texture, I found the 2.5 cups of tapioca flour results in a too chewy batter for my taste. I decreased it significantly and I also added about a cup of cornstarch to the mix. I last used a 1 cup rice flour, 2 tbsp tapioca, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 4 cup water. This wasn't perfect but I preferred it.

                                        For those of you who haven't seen, there are a couple of vids (one on google vids, one on youtube) of professional banh cuon ladies. It'll blow your mind because they're so fast.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: chowdsbmac

                                          Thanks for sharing your tips based on your own experimentation. The double boiler method sounds interesting; I'll have to try it sometime. I haven't been bothered by the "crispy wisps" to which you refer, but I can see how the less direct heat of your method would result in a very delicate and tender crepe. I'll have to check out those videos!

                                          1. re: Carb Lover

                                            After more experimenting using the bain marie, i find it easier to roll the banh cuons after the batter has cooled somewhat. If you roll them hot they're rather sticky unless you use a lot of oil. So I use several foil pans for each boiler. One in the boiler, one waiting to go into the boiler, and one cooling with cooked batter.

                                            Next, after some batter research and experimenting. I pretty much settled on this formula.

                                            1 cup rice flour
                                            2 tbsp tapioca flour
                                            1 tbsp cornstarch
                                            2 cups water

                                            The tapioca for chewiness and the cornstarch to add a silky texture. It's odd but after looking at like 6-7 banh cuon batter recipes I found there's quite a bit of variation. The one above emulates the batter texture of a great viet restaurant in town.

                                            1. re: chowdsbmac

                                              any chance of some photos of your bain maire set-up?

                                        2. Just wanted to say that I tried your recipe tonight. Delicious. I cheated a bit and rolled the filling while the crepe was still in the pan. Not the safest as you can burn your fingers but the appearance was much better than the first one.

                                          Thanks again. If you have any other diy Vietnamese dishes, please share.

                                          1. You are really an awesome person for posting this step-by-step recipe (with pictures) for the seemingly elusive bahn cuon. We would drive 45 min on Saturday just to eat this dish. Thank you so much for taking the time to share.

                                            1. wow! i can't wait to make this. yum yum yum!

                                              1. I made this dish and it was delicious. I couldn't get the hang of the pan though. This past weekend I found packages of premixed banh cuon at the asian market. What a mistake! It was so disgusting. I should have read the ingredients. it was all starch. I'm go back to the recipe you provided.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: jken2000

                                                  Yay, my heart always leaps for joy when this thread is revived! That means more people can enjoy banh cuon at home when they once thought it was impossible...

                                                  Now I'm craving some banh cuon... :-)

                                                  1. re: Carb Lover

                                                    I've tried this recipe a couple times and it seems to get a bit easier with each attempt...amazing flavors and just soulful. You are indeed an awesome person for sharing this.

                                                    1. re: petradish

                                                      Petradish, I'm so glad you tried this and enjoyed it! It's nice to "see" you on this board again!!

                                                2. Wow, beautiful! I have to admit I'd never thought of making it but with your instructions and terrific photos I want to try. I am trying to do too many things at once right now and haven't even gotten it together enough to do a COTM recipe but am going mark this as a favorite and come back to it.
                                                  They really look beautiful. Many thanks to you and your mom! What a treasure it is to be able cook with her.

                                                  1. This looks great! I'm bookmarking it!

                                                    1. Are these similar to a rice wrapper, or different altogether?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                                        and the photos, wow you sure captured it. I am going to try this dish.

                                                      2. Carb Lover, I just wanted to add my thanks or sharing your mom's recipe and such detailed instructions. I've made this several times over the last couple of years and it always gets kudos. The most recent instance was for our first Toronto Chowhound picnic yesterday. I ended up getting a bit lazy (and time crunched), so I didn't make the crepes. Instead, I put the filling in Belgian endive and served them as sort of mini lettuce wraps. The platter looked quite lovely, and they were very tasty, so I thought I'd share the variation with fans of your recipe.

                                                        There is a link to a photo of one of the "lettuce" wraps in this post: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/54044...

                                                        Unfortunately, the wrap is being held over a plate that had guacamole on it, so it's a bit hard to make out! But you can get the idea. :) I served them with the following garnishes: nuoc cham, hoisin sauce (not Vietnamese, but still good), fried onions, cilantro and bean sprouts.

                                                        Thanks again!

                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: TorontoJo

                                                          All those photos look wonderful. I was thinking about making Vietnamese summer rolls for dinner tonight, given the heat. How do you think the pork and accoutrements would be as a filling?

                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                            They would be awesome in summer rolls! That was actually my original backup plan when I decided not to make the crepes. Then I got even lazier and didn't want to fight traffic to the asian grocery store, so endives it was. :) The filling is so simple and so tasty that it can be used in so many different ways.

                                                            1. re: TorontoJo

                                                              Thanks - it inspired me to get out Hot Sour Salty Sweet, so I'm going to make those for dinner, along with the Vietnamese Chicken Salad and Shrimp and Rice Soup for dinner.

                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                P.S. The dried onions - are those just dehydrated onions? I don't think I've ever used them ....

                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                  Yum! Can I come over for dinner?

                                                              2. re: MMRuth

                                                                I made the pork filling on Sunday, and used it two ways - summer rolls on Sunday, and a noodle dish that I "made up" on Monday.

                                                                I didn't have any dried shitakes, and so used fresh, but used rehydrated tree ear mushrooms. Also, I sliced instead of diced, just by accident. Really wonderful flavors. I did fry the dehydrated onions (hope that was the right thing to use) and sauteed onions and scallions as suggested. I then made the summer rolls, adding carrots (with vinegar and a little sugar), mung beans, mint leaves, a chive and a little bit of the sauteed onions. I made the dipping sauce from Hot Sweet Sour Salty (probably the wrong order in the name!). Served this with the Vietnamese salad from that book - basically more carrots, lettuce, mint and cilantro sprigs, etc. I also made the Chicken Salad from that book.

                                                                Then, last night, I had some of the pork left over, and lots of herbs, so I ended up doctoring up left over from poaching the chicken the night before, and cooked flat noodes (rice? mung bean?) in it. I sliced up the remaining shitakes and some scallions, and added them to the pork. Then tossed the noodles with the pork and cooked briefly in the pan with some of the broth, then tossed with chopped cilantro, mint, basil and chives, put in bowls and added a little broth. It was really delicious.

                                                                Edit: I also added some leftover lime juice to the noodles. And - for the first time, it occurred to me to use my zester to "grate" the carrots - so pretty!

                                                            2. I was trying to find your photos of step by step, did you delete them?
                                                              thanks! s