This time last year I was in Michigan visiting my grandparents and other extended family. My favorite part of my visit is always my grandma’s cooking. She is seriously just the best cook. My favorite dish of hers is her banh cuon. It is a soft rice roll filled with ground pork and wood ear mushrooms. You eat it with some fresh veggies and a little bit of nuoc cham. It’s just magic in your mouth. Yummm. Since I’m not visiting her this year, I decided to try my hand at making banh cuon for myself. For a vegan version of this recipe, check out my banh cuon chay.
The first step to making banh cuon is mixing together the batter. Combine tapioca flour, rice flour, vegetable oil, and room temperature water. Mix together and let it sit for 30 minutes. If you don’t have time to make the batter, you can also get the dry ingredients premixed at Asian grocery stores! I also found it on Amazon. My mom actually uses this instead of mixing all the dry ingredients from scratch because she’s lazy lol. Both methods will yield the same result.
Making the filling
The filling is made of ground pork, onions, and wood ear mushrooms. Marinate the pork in sugar, pepper, and fish sauce and cook it over medium high heat with the onions and mushrooms. If you get lazy, you can also just eat the filling by itself. Oftentimes, I have filling left over so I just throw it over some rice and call it a day.
Wood Ear Mushrooms
This is the first recipe where I worked with wood ear mushrooms. I didn’t really know where to find them here in SF, so my mom gave me some when I visited for Thanksgiving. These mushrooms can usually be found in Asian grocery stores or on Amazon. (Amazon seriously has everything lol) You can either buy them whole or shredded. For this recipe, I would recommend buying them shredded since you’re putting them into a small rice roll. In addition, since they’re shredded that means less cutting.
Putting it all together
This is probably the most difficult part of the recipe. It’s important that the rice roll has a thin skin. Before you start cooking, make sure you have everything ready and accessible next to your stove. This would be your batter, your filling, and a flat surface to make you rolls.
Heat a 8 inch circular nonstick pan over low heat. Once hot, pour a thin layer of the batter into the pan. You should use about 1/8 cup per roll. Cover the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes. The skin should be so thin and transparent you can see the pan through it. Once done, quickly flip the pan upside down on top of the flat surface so the skin comes out all in one go. This may take some practice. The first time I did this, some of the edges stuck together so I tossed it. Truth be told, I tossed more than a few skins.
Let the skin cool for 10 seconds so you don’t burn your fingers rolling. While it cools, add new batter to the pan. As the second skin is cooking, add about 1 tablespoon of the filling to the first skin and roll it like an egg roll. Repeat this process until you use up all the batter. As you do it, you will get into a rhythm, and it will get easier. I took some step-by-step pictures of my rolling process below.
Eating Banh Cuon
Banh cuon is eaten with fresh veggies like cucumbers, mint, cha lua, fried shallots, and nuoc cham. You can customize your toppings however you like. After making this batch, I brought some over to a friend’s place, and she wasn’t a huge fan of the cha lua. So she ate just the banh cuon with the cucumbers. I personally LOVE the cha lua, so I ate her portion too lol.
My Grandma’s Banh Cuon
- Making the batter: Combine rice flour, tapioca flour, room temperature water, vegetable oil, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- While the batter is resting, soak the wood ear mushrooms in a bowl of water for 20 minutes. Once done soaking, wring out as much water as possible. Coarsely chop them into small pieces and set aside.
- Combine the pork, fish sauce, sugar, and pepper. Marinate for 10 minutes and set aside.
- Making the filling: In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add in the onions and cook for 30 seconds. Add in the ground pork and wood ear mushrooms and cook until well done (about 2-3 minutes). Set filling aside.
- Once the batter has rested for 30 minutes, the water should have separated from the rice flour mixture below. Pour out the water on the top layer into a liquid measuring cup. Note how much water is in the measuring cup and throw away that water. Fill the measuring cup with the same amount of water that was poured out. Pour that water into the rice batter and mix. Set aside.
- You are now ready to make your banh cuon. Make sure you're ready with your batter and filling near your pan. Use a circular 8 inch nonstick pan. Heat over low heat. Spoon 1/8 cup of batter into a thin layer covering the bottom of the pan. Cover it with the lid and let it cook for 1-2 minutes. Once done, flip the pan upside down onto a flat surface so the skin comes out in one piece. This may take some practice. Let the first skin rest for ~10 seconds so you don't burn your fingers. Fill the skin with 1 tablespoon of the filling and roll it up like an egg roll.
- Repeat this process until all the batter is used up.
- Making scallion oil: Heat 1/2 cup of vegetable oil over medium high heat until it starts to sizzle (1-2 minutes). Pour hot oil over green onions in a small bowl.
- Preparing your banh cuon plate: Add some banh cuon to a plate. Spoon some scallion oil over the top. Top with cha lua, mint, fried shallots, and cucumbers. Sprinkle nuoc cham over the top of everything and enjoy!