Aug 2008

Bánh Tráng Trộn

Banh trang tron is a hodge-podge salad-type creation that I’ve only encountered in street food form. Whereas most of Saigon’s pavement eats are sold on some sort of rolling metal cart, banh trang tron is sold exclusively by conical hat-donning women carrying weighty baskets over their shoulders.

The surest sign that you’ve stumbled upon a banh trang tron dealer is the small hoard of business suit-clad women crouching around her baskets waiting for their take of the stuff.

The base of the dish is banh trang (rice paper), which are cut into strips and kept dry as a bone. A packet of flavoring agents that includes chili powder and MSG are added to the banh trang strips. Next, an abundance of fresh rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) is torn into the mix, followed by a squeeze of sour Vietnamese kalamansi juice and hard boiled quail eggs. The vendor combines (tron) the ingredients with her hands and serves up a portion in a plastic bag with two skewers serving as makeshift chopsticks.

Even though banh trang tron is a painfully dry dish, it manages to meld all of the ingredients into a cohesive flavor. Although edible, it’s just not all that appealing, especially the clumps of chili powder. The Astronomer conjectures that this dish was thought up during an era of extreme poverty to spruce up plain old rice paper. I think he may be on to something.

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6 thoughts on “Bánh Tráng Trộn

  1. This is a new version of the banh trang tron we kids used to have. They were sold in many school canteens, and usually had a few different varieties. Core ingredients usually involved: banh trang (in 1 round piece or shreded), chilli powder, dry shimp, and seasoned fried onion. Banh trang then was not the normal type we used to wrap spring rolls. They had those tiny shrimp or scallion on them, and the combination tasted…. wicked. I don’t think any of the kids weren’t addicted to the thing.

  2. Vivian – Banh trang with shrimps and scallions embedded in them sounds sweet! A shame mine were unadorned. Perhaps I should have tried a school canteen instead of the basket lady?

  3. Dear Gastronomy,

    I beg to differ, but I think banh trang tron is the best invention ever in recent Vietnamese culinary. The one you had lacked so many things: the beef liver (kho bo`) used in go?i kho^ bo`, the sauce, julienne-d green mango, shrimp salt (muo^’i to^m), an a gazillion other stuff. I am drooling as I’m typing this.

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