I had four delicious posts lined up for you but I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to post. I thought about posting some popsicles that I made inspired by The Slow Roasted Italian, but I thought I’d wait until it gets into those muggy summer months. I asked my followers on Facebook (hit the “Like” button in the sidebar if you haven’t already =P), and from the feedback, people wanted these delicious Vietnamese vegetarian steamed rice rolls. Typically, these are stuffed with a ground pork mixture (basically substitute the tofu for the ground pork), and topped with fried onions and complemented with lots of leafy greens like green leaf lettuce, steamed bean sprouts, cucumbers, mint, cilantro and whatever other greens my grandpa has in his garden.
Drizzle from Vietnamese fish sauce on top, and these rolls are my absolute favourite thing to eat. As many of you know now, I am vegetarian and I can’t eat any of that anymore. I thought I wouldn’t be able to eat this ever again, but my mom proved me wrong.
One day, she woke up early and made me these before she went to work and took my brother to school (seriously, my mom is Super Woman). It was a huge platter of about 40 rolls and I was ecstatic. I had some vegetarian dipping sauce to drizzle on top and everything was perfect. As a result, I wanted to learn how to make these so that I could show you lovely readers how to make these fantastic Vietnamese vegetarian steamed rice rolls.
So for Mother’s Day, my mom, my grandmother, and I all gathered in the kitchen to school me in the art of making banh cuon. My mom did it two at a time and was a BEAST at mastering the rhythm (with what I imagined included years of practice and experience) and after she showed me how to do it once, I just dove in. I seemed to get the rhythm down pretty quickly, but honestly, the most difficult part was flipping the rice crepes over flat. They kept flipping all to one side so it was a little pile of rice crepe, which is super sticky and refused to come apart (kind of like bunched cellophane).
The bottom of the crepe (which becomes the outside of the rolls) is smooth and oily, while the top part of the crepe is bubbly and crispy (which becomes the inside of the rolls). The mixture of textures from the filling, the smooth chewiness of the rice crepes, the crunchy fried onions, and the fresh greens is honestly the best thing ever.
Oh man. Being Vietnamese is awesome.
Harness your inner Vietnamese by trying this out at home or at your local Vietnamese restaurant. You will NOT regret it =)
For the batter
- 1 lb rice flour (one bag from the asian markets)
- 1 L + 1/4 cup warm water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
For the filling
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 3 bunches of mung bean/glass noodles, approx. 3 cups dried
- 2 cups of chopped fried tofu (about 3 cups of fried cubes, chopped is about 2 cups)
- 1 cup cloud ear fungus (dried, can be found in asian markets)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Garnish with chopped cucumber, steamed bean sprouts, mint leaves, lettuce, and fried onions with vietnamese dipping sauce.
- Make the batter by combining rice flour, warm water and olive oil in a bowl. Stir well until all the rice flour is hydrated.
For the Filling:
- Soak glass noodles in hot water for 10 minutes. Once they're pliable/soft, drain and use scissors to cut into 1 cm pieces. Set aside.
- Soak the cloud ear fungus in warm water until soft. Slice into small slivers and set aside for cooking.
- In a large pan over medium heat, stir-fry the onion and carrots with olive oil for 3-4 minutes until the onions are getting translucent.
- Add the chopped noodles, sliced fungus and about 1/2 tsp salt and continue cooking, stirring continuously for about 5-7 minutes (the noodles will get softer and absorb the moisture from the cooking process.
- Add the chopped tofu and another dash of salt. Continue until everything is cooked through, then remove from heat and set aside.
- Preheat a small, non-stick pan over medium high heat and pour one ladle-full of batter (make sure you stir before pouring) onto the pan. Cover with a lid and cook for about 1 minute. Take the lid off the pan and continue to cook for another minute.
- Flip the crepe onto a cutting board/plate and fill the crepe with the filling. Tuck in edges then roll to wrap the filling. Transfer to a platter.
- Repeat until all ingredients are gone. If you want to do the 2 pan process that my family taught me, see the notes below.
- Serve with vietnamese dipping sauce and the greens mentioned in the ingredients list.
My family's "rhythm process". Heat two small non-stick pans on medium high and keep the rice crepe batter with a ladle beside the stove. Also set up a plate or cutting board for you to fill and wrap the crepes (I recommend wearing vinyl gloves if you don't think your hands can handle hot crepes). Keep the filling you just cooked next to the plate/cutting board for quick access.
Stir the batter well to mix the settled rice flour. Pour a ladle-full into preheated pan #1 and cover with a lid. Let cook for about 1 minute, then remove the lid (keep on heat). Now pour a ladle-full into pan #2 and cover with the lid that you took off pan #1. Flip pan #1 over onto the cutting board/plate and pour another ladle-full onto pan #1 and take the lid from pan #2 and cover pan #1.
Now take a spoonful of the filling and place in a strip in the middle of the crepe (on the crispy side). Tuck in the edges then roll to keep the filling inside. Move to a plate and then flip the crepe from pan #2 onto the cutting board (the crispy side will be facing up). Fill pan #2 with batter (make sure you stir before pouring) and take the lid from pan #1 and put it on #2.
Fill the crepe and repeat the process! It sounds complicated but once you do it, you just get into a rhythm and before you know it, you're out of ingredients and you've got like 2 platters of rice rolls!