Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bánh Cuốn (serves 4-5)

banh cuon
I have several favorite Vietnamese street foods and bánh cuốn is one of them. The Vietnamese translation for these delicious rolls: bánh = cake and cuốn = roll. In Vietnam these bánh cuốn are steamed on a tight muslin cloth that reminds me of a drum. However, my mother makes her bánh cuốn using a regular frying pan and they come out very thin and as tasty as those made with the special steamer. I have a non-stick crepe pan and it makes beautiful bánh cuốn.

Crepes

Ingredients:

6 cups water
1 lb rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 tsp salt

Method:

1) Mix all ingredients in a large container or pot until well blended, set aside. May prepare a day before.
2) Use a non-stick pan or a crepe pan and wipe the pan lightly with a paper towel soaked with a little oil. This method prevent leaving too much oil on the pan. Heat the pan over medium heat.
3) Once the pan is hot, add a ladle of crepe batter, swirl the batter all over the pan and empty out access batter back into the batter container or pot.
4) Cover the pan and let it steam for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling along one end of the crepe. Use a pair of chopsticks and a silicone spatula to help roll the crepe up.  Remove the rolled crepe to a dish.
5) Wipe the pan clean with oil soaked paper towel. Repeat the cooking process until all of the batter is done. Cover the finished crepes to prevent from drying out.

cover and let crepe steam for about 30 seconds
add filling and roll
the completed rolls
*It may take a few tries before you achieve the right temperature for your crepes and understand the amount of time needed to cook each one.  If you cook the crepe too long they will start to dry up and break.  Also it may take a few practices before you can make thin crepes.  The best crepes are ones that are made very thin and the filling can be seen once they are rolled up.
*I used a pair of chopsticks and a silicone spatula to help roll the crepes.  However, you can use whatever you have available at home to roll the crepe without burning your fingers.
*I find the tapioca flour helps make the crepes more translucent.  However you can make perfectly good crepes with rice flour alone.

cooked filling
Filling

Ingredients:

1 lb ground pork
2/3 cup dried wood ears, hydrated, rinsed well, and chopped (yields about 1 C)
1/2 cup chopped scallions
4-5 large garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sugar

Method:

1) Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Once the pan is hot add garlic and scallions.  Saute for about a minute.
2) Add pork, break the meat into small pieces.  Saute about 6 minutes.
3) Add wood ears, fish sauce and sugar.  Saute for about 4 minutes or until all the meat is completely cooked.  Drain the contents before using (if the filling is too wet).

*Wood ears are a type of mushroom that has a little crunch to them.  These are often sold dry in an Asian market.  You can hydrate these in warm or hot water.  Once hydrated be sure to rinse well in water and squeeze out all the access water before using.

Toppings

Julienned fresh cucumber
Blanched fresh bean sprouts
Julienned cha lua
Vietnamese dipping sauce (with hot sauce if desired)
Dried shallots (garnish)

*Cha lua is a Vietnamese sausage or pork roll. Some people make these at home but you may purchase these rolls in Asian markets.
*You can make the shallots by frying these thinly sliced shallots in oil until they are golden color.  For convenience you may purchase them in a container in Asian markets. They are used as garnishes. I like to add them in my noodle soups.

addendum: My cousin, Ngoc and I made this batch of banh cuon
 using banh cuon flour already mixed in a bag.
Water was added to the flour to make a batter.
Ngoc made the dipping sauce and fried shallots.
We used a non-stick pan to make these delicious and thin crepes (2015).
Addendum: Below are a few photos of a home-made steam pot belonging to my friend's mother. The fabric is cotton sewn with a string. The round tube to hold the fabric is made from hard metal. The pot has 4 screws to anchor the round metal with the fabric. 

4 screws on the top of the pot to hold
the steaming layer
round metal piece
cotton fabric sew with a string for
easy removal and washing

the steaming pot
home-made banh cuon steaming pot

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