Traditional Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Sheets (Banh Hoi, Question Cake) are sheets of woven thin rice vermicelli. Noodles are thin enough to make the cakes soft and airy, the texture of the vermicelli sheet is firm enough so noodles stick to each other. Some people think that Banh Hoi originated from South Vietnam, it has been brought to Hue ancient capital of Vietnam by Queen Mother Tu Du in the 19th century. The cake has become more and more popular in the country. The thickness of the sheets and the noodles, accompaniments are different in different regions.
How to make Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Sheets (Banh Hoi)
It needs many steps to make Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Sheets. At first, high-quality rice is soaked in water for about half-day, then washed with water for some times until the water is clear. Washed rice is ground with water into rice flour mixture which is steamed and kneaded, or cooked in a big pan while being stirred continuously. The cook must be an experienced one that knows when it starts to coagulate but no flour sticks on stirring tool to stop cooking the mixture. This is the most important step to make light, soft, not sticky Banh Hoi with firm texture.
The dough is well-done and ready for being pressed into noodle form using a copper or aluminum cylindrical tool with several needle-eye-sized. It requires great strength to press because the dough is hard but the holes are small. When one person presses the dough, another person “catches” the coming out thin noodles, press them together and cut off them every 10 cm. That’s the way they make woven noodle sheets – Banh Hoi. These sheets are laid onto a surface before being steamed for about five minutes.
In the past, Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Sheets are made for parties or selling at local markets and it lasts about 1 hour at room temperature. In recent days, there are packaged dried Banh Hoi which is ready for serving after being steaming for 10 minutes.
How to serve Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Sheets
This cake is usually served cold with chopped green onions or garlic chives stir-fried with oil and some Vietnamese meat or prawn dishes (Pork Patties, Grilled Pork, Grilled Beef in Wild Betel, Roast Pork, Vietnamese Fried Roll, Grilled Minced Prawn on Sugarcane). Herbs, vegetables and dipping fish sauce/soy sauce are also served with this food. Banh Hoi also goes well with both fish sauce dip and soy sauce dip.
In each region, they have their own way to eat Banh Hoi. In South Vietnam, highly regarded, Banh Hoi is a must food at weddings and death anniversaries. At these ceremonial parties, these cakes are rolled, topped with chopped green onion sauteed in oil, served with Roast Pork and dipping soy sauce/fish sauce. In Soc Trang province, they eat this cake with Grilled Prawn, local herbs and dipping fermented fish paste. In Vung Tau province, Banh Hoi is served with Grilled Beef or Roasted Pork. They also serve the cake with Fried Rolls (Cha Gio).
Banh Hoi with Grilled Pork and chopped green onion sauteed in oil
Rolled Banh Hoi with Pork Patties, herbs, cucumber, chopped green onion sauteed in oil
In Hue, they serve Banh Hoi with Pork Patties, fish sauce dip, herbs, salad, and cucumber. Locals can eat Hoi Cake simply with garlic chives stir-fried with oil for any meal during the day in Binh Dinh – a province of Vietnam’s South Central Coast region, l. In Phu Yen and Phan Thiet provinces, they eat Banh Hoi with Boiled Pig Organs.
Banh Hoi with Boiled Pig Organs
Where to eat Rice Vermicelli Sheets in Vietnam?
Hoi Cake is one of the most brilliant stars in the sky of Vietnamese foods. Noodles, rice noodles, bread, rolls are popular around Asian countries but only Vietnam has Rice Vermicelli Sheets. It’s a less-known traditional food in comparison to other Vietnamese foods such as Pho, Vietnamese Spring Roll, Vietnamese Bread. However, it’s the food any foreigner should try on his trip to our country to know more about real local food as well as Vietnamese cuisine and culture.
Ngoc Son Restaurant, 103 Ngo Quyen Street, Ward 11, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 9:00 – 21:00; Prices: 40,000 VND.
Block A, Ngo Gia Tu Apartment Buildings, Hoa Hao Street, Ward 3, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 16:30 – 22:00; Prices: 30,000 – 35,000 VND.
3 Nguyen Thuong Hien Street, Ward 5, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City; Opening hours: 7:00 – 21:00; Prices: 15,000 – 25,000 VND.
Banh Hoi Dong Khanh, 40 Tran Phu Street, Phan Thiet City, Binh Thuan Province; Opening hours: 7:00 – 21:00; Prices: 12,000 – 25,000 VND.