The literal translation for bánh cuốn is “rolled cakes.” A more apt translation would be “Vietnamese crêpes stuffed with ground pork and wood ear mushrooms.” In Vietnam, bánh cuốn is consumed for breakfast and as a late night snack.
For years, my Bà Ngoại (maternal grandmother) made bánh cuốn using a prefabbed batter that she purchased from the Vietnamese supermarket. The grocery store-bought batter yielded passable bánh cuốn, but my grandma always felt that the crêpes’ consistency was slightly off. While reading a local Vietnamese-language newspaper recently, Bà Ngoại stumbled upon a bánh cuốn recipe that looked very promising. She followed the instructions to a T and was very impressed with the results. The combination of rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch makes for a light and thin crêpe without a trace of glueyness.
- 2 cups rice flour
- 1 cup potato starch
- 1/2 cup tapioca starch
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 5.5 cups water
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 cup wood ear mushrooms
- 4 shallots, finely chopped
- Fish sauce
- Black pepper
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Make crêpe batter
In a large bowl, whisk together rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch. Whisk in water and oil until blended. Let the batter rest for one full hour before proceeding. [See images of the various flours' packaging after the jump.]
While the crêpe batter is resting, prepare the meat filling.
In a small bowl, cover the wood ear mushrooms with boiling water and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain and chop the mushrooms.
In a small skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil. Add the ground pork and the shallots and cook over moderate heat until no pink remains. Break up the meat with a spatula. Stir in the chopped mushrooms. Season with fish sauce, black pepper, sugar, and MSG to taste. Set aside.
The process of making bánh cuốn requires one to work quickly and efficiently, so make sure that all ingredients are within reach before starting—batter, filling, and additional oil.
Assemble bánh cuốn
Grease a large plate using a non-stick spray or a paper towel dipped in oil. Set aside.
Heat a ten-inch non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Lightly mist pan with non-stick spray if using a plain skillet. Ladle in about a half cup of batter, quickly swirl to evenly coat the skillet, and then quickly pour the excess back into the batter bowl. Note: the batter should sizzle when it hits the pan. Cover the pan with a lid for approximately 30 seconds.
The crêpe is ready to be inverted once the edges start to release themselves. Invert the crêpe onto the greased plate in one swift motion. Don’t worry if the crêpe’s sides fold inward. Be sure to re-grease the plate after every three crêpes or so.
Spoon about one tablespoon of the pork and mushroom filling into the center of the crêpe. Fold in the sides to cover the filling and form a neat rectangle. Transfer the finished bánh cuốn onto a different plate.
It is best to fill and fold the bánh cuốn while the crêpes are cooking. The time that it takes to fill and fold the bánh cuốn is comparable to the time that it takes for the crêpes to cook. The bánh cuốn making process goes by rather quickly once a rhythm is established.
Serve bánh cuốn warm or at room temperature with nuoc cham. Garnish with fried shallots, steamed mung bean sprouts, julienned cucumbers, and cha lua (Vietnamese pork loaf).
Makes approximately 30 to 40 bánh cuốn.
The bánh cuốn batter calls for three different types of flours—from left to right—rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch. All are available at Asian grocery stores.