Among other members of the extended noodle family, banh cuon almost ranks first. It is a paper-thin steamed rice flour pancake, much like delicate sheets of fresh rice noodles. The pancakes are plucked off of the linen steamer base, and immediately rolled with minced pork and mushrooms, then piled on a plate, sprinkled with deep fried shallots, snipped with scissors into bite sized sections, and topped with fresh herbs such as cilantro or Vietnamese basil.
To eat, dip a section of rolled noodle goodness into the accompanying warm fish sauce broth, brightened with a squeeze of fresh lime. You can also pick the leaves off the herbs and add them to the dipping sauce, grabbing a leaf or two as you dip, or you can follow each bite with a chaser of herbs. Bánh cuốn are often eaten with different sides of pork sausages, including sheets of an orange hued, roasted cinnamon sausage called “chả quế”.
Where to find it?
A short walk north of Hàng Da Market and Hàng Điếu street will bring you to Bánh Cuốn Thanh Vân, just look for the bánh cuốn station—two large covered steaming pots—out front along the sidewalk. Just take a look! The practiced hands keep the bánh cuốn rolling out with experiences, alternating seamlessly between spreading the thin batter on the linen base of one steamer, then at right time, turning to the other to peel the delicately steamed pancake off the linen base with a bamboo stick. By the time the batter is spread on its newly emptied linen base, the pancake in the first steamer is ready and waiting.
No. 14 Hàng Gà street, between Hàng Mã and Hàng Vải (the Hàng Vải corner is lined with bamboo ladders and poles). It is located on the west side of the street, not far from where the street name changes from Hàng Cót to Hàng Gà.
The restaurant Quán Ăn Ngon, No.18 Phan Bội Châu Street, also does a very respectable version of bánh cuốn.