Bánh Cuốn Nóng Rice Batter Pancakes – 344 of 365

Bánh Cuốn

A coworker asked me if I had yet tried bánh cuốn from the street.  I said I had not had any of this northern specialty from the street but had sampled some on board the plane and at a hotel.  A seriously sad look washed over her face as she proceeded to tell me these “wraps” of a sort are wonderfully “good for health.”  There’s that proclamation yet again.  With a few years of Vietnam under my belt, I am wise enough to know that good for health is code for not so good for health after all.

As luck would have it, a woman has a sidewalk stand just down the market street from my apartment.  She maintains both a steady dine in and takeaway business from her overly cramped food preparation station.  High turnover and a constant flow of clientele means the food should go down a ok and even more importantly stay down.

I watched as she smeared a rice batter on top of a hot griddle with a long stick of questionable sanitation.  The liquid began bubbling and solidifying just before she placed a metal cover over this cooking apparatus to further along the cooking process.  Once finished she quickly lifted the finished product with the same stick with the greatest of ease.  I can tell you now that had I attempted this, batter shrapnel would litter the sidewalk all around.

Bánh Cuốn Stand

Onto the crepe went minced pork and diced mushrooms, and then it was all rolled up into a neat little burrito.  Using rusted out scissors to slice it was such a nice touch.  Why use a clean knife when crusty looking scissors are available?  I think my tetanus shot is up to date so no worries.  But seriously, can food give someone a bout of tetanus or lockjaw?

As I stared down at this plate I noticed how bereft of nutrition this rather tasty meal is.  White rice based crepes, bologna like sausage called chả lụa, fried onions, minced pork, fish sauce…yes, this is a who’s who of what not to eat on a regular basis.  I suppose the small scattering of fresh herbs does infuse a tiny, tiny bit of “good for health” but just not enough for me to feel good about eating such empty calories on a regular basis.

Yet as with anything in life, the worse for us something is, usually the better it tastes.  The slightly spicy sauce of course contains enough sodium to bring down an elephant, and I know anything made of white rice is a nutritional Sahara Desert.   But in the end I think this tasted even better since I know it’s more a guilty pleasure than something a nutritionist would approve.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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