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Jun 30, 2006 08:13 AM

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:

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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!