Although you’d never guess from my gastronomic adventures documented here, I am actually a creature of habit when it comes to everyday eating. I have a handful of lunchtime favorites that I could rotate through indefinitely without getting bored to tears, so it’s usually at the suggestion of The Astronomer that I try something new.
I had never heard of bánh tráng phơi sương until last week, when The Astronomer read about it on Pieman‘s site. In fact, Graham declared it his “favourite southern Vietnamese dish.” We headed over to Hoang Ty Restaurant (459-461 Cach Mang Thang Tam Street, District 10) to experience the glory that is “rice pancake exposed in the dew (at night)” for ourselves.
Bánh tráng phơi sương, like a lot of Vietnamese dishes, is a DIY roll and dip number. It is comprised of seven distinct parts: greens/herbs, pickled carrots, daikon and leeks, bun (vermicelli rice noodles), slices of boiled pork, fresh bean sprouts, cucumbers and peppercorns, rice paper and nuoc cham. Hoang Ty had a special of sorts going on during our visit, so we received a complimentary plate of cha (pork forcemeat) with our lunch. Score!
I started with a sheet of especially rustic rice paper, tucked in some greens and herbs, piled on pieces of boiled pork (I prefer to double up), bundled up some noodles and lastly, added fresh and pickled vegetables. Although the rice paper looked delicate, it was actually quite a champ when it came time to roll. Dipped in a bit of nuoc cham, the bánh tráng phơi sương was very reminiscent of goi cuon (spring rolls) minus the hoisin suace.
The Astronomer appreciated the DIY aspect of this dish; being able to choose the exact ratio of meats, herbs, vegetables and greens suited him well. However, he was disappointed that the majority of the greens/herbs tasted a lot less exciting than they looked. Overall, The Astronomer thought that bánh tráng phơi sương was a fun eating experience, but an entire meal of it was a bit monotonous. For me, bánh tráng phơi sương was too mild. I prefer my pork with some punch, if you know what I mean.