A Guide to Vietnamese Rolls

In Vietnam, steamed rice is healthy and cheap food usually eaten at home, warm noodle soups are favorite when it rains or it’s cold. Vietnamese rolls have played an important part of the country cuisine, there aren’t less than dozen of roll recipes from North to South Vietnam. Rolls are easy to make and taste.

Most of Vietnamese roll recipes use fresh vegetables, wrapper from rice so that the rolls are comfortable to eat and healthy. Some rolls are wrapped in rice paper, Pho sheet, Wet Cake or greens and eaten with dipping sauce. Fillings of these fresh rolls are cooked meat, fishes, shrimps, pancakes, vegetables, herbs and rice noodles. Other kinds of rolls are wrapped, then fried or grilled until well-done. The fillings of grilled or fried rolls could be various combinations of pork, beef, crab, wood ear, cellophane, taro, mung bean… Followings are some traditional Vietnamese rolls which have won the hearts of Vietnamese people and foreigners:

I. Fresh Roll

1. Vietnamese Rolls with Rice Paper Wrapper

Goi Cuon

Goi Cuon is one of the most famous Vietnamese rolls and known popularly around the world. Recipe of this food has been shared on many cooking websites and magazines. This is a simple, delicious healthy food with easy recipe. Just dip rice paper into water for a few second until it becomes moistened, the wrap fillings (herbs, cucumber, boiled pork slices, peeled boiled shrimp, rice noodles, garlic chive) into medium roll. The sweet and sour solid dipping sauce is made from fermented soy bean, tamarind and topped with crushed peanuts. Some people prefer dipping Goi Cuon with sweet, sour and hot fish sauce dip.
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Bo Bia

Fillings of Bo Bia are dried baby shrimp, Lap xuong (Chinese sausage), stir-fried shredded carrot and jicama, basil, fried egg (optional). All of fillings are wrapped in moistened rice paper. Bo Bia roll is served with special sauce made by grounding fermented soy bean, toasted peanut, the sauce is topped with sweet and sour pickled carrot and daikon, crispy deep-fried onion. Bo Bia has been a favorite snack which has won the hearts of most teenagers in Vietnam.

Roll with Dew-wetted Rice Paper (Banh Trang Phoi Suong)

Roll with Dew-wetted Rice Paper is a specialty food of Tay Ninh province – the birth place of unique Cao Dai religion. What makes this roll different from other Vietnamese rolls? The key of this kind of roll is rice paper made by steaming rice flour batter into thin sheet which is dried under the sun until dry and dew-wetted at night for about 15 minutes. Because the rice paper is chewy and tender, there’s no need to dip it into water before wrapping fillings. Vegetables and herbs in Tay Ninh forest also make the food special. Pork is tighten by threads before being boiled and sliced so that its taste is great. All are served on tables so that dinners can wrap sliced pork, vegetables, herbs, rice noodles, pickled shallots, sliced starfruit, sliced green banana, cucumber and bean sprouts in rice paper into roll and eat with fish sauce dip.

Hue Roll with Grilled Pork Patty

In Hue, grilled pork patties, vegetables and herbs are wrapped in rice paper and eaten with special sauce. The patties are made from minced fresh pork, ground pork which is used to make Vietnamese roll, minced/shredded pork skin. The mix of pork and pork skin is threaded onto lemongrass and grilled on charcoal until pleasant. The sauce plays an important part in creating the great flavor of this food. It’s made from ground pork liver, peanuts and sesame.

Banh Trang Cuon

Banh Trang Cuon is a favorite snack which is very popular in Saigon. The fillings are deep-fried onion, shredded green mango, beef jerky, boiled quail egg, peanuts, Vietnamese mint… The roll could be topped with mayonnaise. This food is usually eaten with sauce made from soy sauce and other ingredients, each Banh Trang Cuon shop/stall has its secret sauce recipe.

Danang Roll with Pork (Banh Trang Cuon Thit Hai Dau Da Da Nang)

Danang people have their own way to eat roll with pork. All ingredients are chosen and cooked carefully. They use meat of pigs allowed to wander around farms so that its meat is great and less fatty. Experienced and talent cooks in Danang choose the right pork cut, steam until well-done and cut it into long thin slices which have skin and fat at two ends. Tender and chewy dew-wetted rice paper is used to wrap fillings. Other thing making the difference is that before putting vegetables, herbs and pork, dinner puts a Wet Cake sheet onto the rice paper. One of highlight of the food is the sauce from fermented fish paste (Mam nem), ginger, lemongrass, chili, lemon juice (optional, added by dinner while eating).

Trang Bang dew-wetted rice paper with boiled pork leg slices

Dew-wetted rice paper originated in Trang Bang. Wet rice papers are dried on bamboo sheets under the sun until it become dry. The dried rice papers are grilled over dried peanut shell fire, then they are put on bamboo sheets so that it’s moistened by dew for about 15 minutes at night. After that these rice papers are wrapped carefully in banana leaves to keep them soft. Dew-wetted rice paper has two layers sticking together, it becomes chewy but tender after being dried under the sun and moistened by dew. This kind of rice paper is usually served with boiled pork leg/pork belly slices, sweet, sour and hot fish sauce dip, herbs.

Roll with Deep-fried fish

Fresh vegetables and herbs, crispy deep-fried fish and rice noodles (optional) are rolled in rice paper is an authentic Vietnamese dish.  The cook must fry whole fish in a big pan at high temperature, oil should cover the fish. The fried fish must be crispy outside and tender inside.

Roll with Vietnamese Pancake (Cuon Banh Xeo)

Crispy traditional Vietnamese Pancakes filled with shrimp, pork, squid, bean sprout, mung bean are popular in South and Central Vietnam. These cakes could be wrapped in rice paper or greens with vegetables, herbs and dip in sweet and sour fish sauce dip. Dinners can add chili, carrot and daikon pickles into the sauce at their wish.

2. Pho Roll (Pho Cuon) – Roll with Pho Sheet Wrapper

Instead of cutting Pho sheets into Pho noodles to make the famous Vietnamese Pho noodle soup. The cook uses Pho sheets to wrapped stir-fried beef and vegetables, herbs into rolls and serve them with fish sauce dip. Natural food colors could be added to make the Pho sheets more attractive and tastier.

3. Roll with Wet Cake and Grilled Beef (Banh Uot Cuon)

Roll with Wet Cake and Grilled Beef originated in Hue – the old kingdom of Vietnam. Banh Uot Cuon is a roll wrapped in Wet Cake wrapper and filled with grilled beef, vegetables and herbs. Wet Cake is made by steaming rice flour batter into thin sheets by special steamer. The food is a perfect mix of tender, chewy Wet Cake, fresh vegetables, tasty beef and special sauce. The beef is marinated with lemongrass and soy sauce so it is very smelling after grilling. It takes many steps to make the unique sauce eaten with Banh Uot Cuon: stir-frying shrimp and pork liver; cooking congee with glutinous rice; blending the mix of stir-fried shrimp and pork liver; glutinous rice congee; cooking the mix and add spices, annatto.

4. Vietnamese Rolls with Vegetable Wrapper

Roll with Pork Ear and Fig Leaf (Tai Heo Cuon La Sung)

Pork Ear could be thrown out in some countries but it is ingredient of many delicious Vietnamese foods. Filling is thin boiled pork ear slices mixed with “thinh” – ground toasted rice, lemon and salt. Dinner just uses fig leaf to wrap the filling into roll, dip into sweet, sour and hot fish sauce dip and tuck in. In some places, they use guava leaf instead of fig leaf.

Roll with Vietnamese Pancake and Greens/Salad (Cuon Banh Xeo)

As mentioned above, Vietnamese pancake is wrapped not only in rice paper but also in greens of salad.

II. Vietnamese Fried Rolls (Cha Gio, Nem Ran)

Traditional Vietnamese Fried Roll which is crispy outside and tender inside has been known popularly around the world. There are various fried roll recipes which depend on history, local preferences and products. Vietnamese people love to eat fried roll with rice noodles/wet cake/rice vermicelli sheets, herbs, vegetables and fish sauce dip.

Vietnamese Fried Roll (Nem Ran) in North Vietnam is a must food at Tet festival. Fillings (ground pork, ground shrimp, minced wood ear, minced carrot, cellophane noodles and egg) are wrapped in moistened rice paper and deep-fried until crispy and yellow.

In South Vietnam, they call Fried Roll Cha Gio, they use other kind of wrapper and use some other ingredients. Instead of egg, they use taro to make fillings sticky together. Jicama is also used as a filling of South Fried Roll. Wrapper is tender and a little wet Banh Trang Pia (Pia Paper) made from wheat flour and mung bean. Besides, people in South Vietnam use Banh Trang Re (Woven Rice Paper) to make the crispiest Cha Gio.

In Danang city (Central Vietnam), local people has a unique way to eat Cha Gio: use greens to wrap Cha Gio, pickles and herbs, vegetables then eat. Fried Roll with Corn is a specialty food in Quang Ngai province (Central Vietnam). Fillings are corn, onion and green onion.

Most of Vietnamese rolls have cylindrical shape, there is a kind of fried roll which has square shape. It’s Nem Cua Be which could be translated into English as Square Fried Roll with Crab. Fillings are similar to Nem Ran, however crab meat is used to replace pork.

In recent days, they have created more fried roll recipes: Fried Roll with Chicken, Fried Roll with Seafood, Fried Roll with Fruits, Fried Roll with Taro and Mung Bean, Fried Roll with Beef and Mush Room, Vegetarian Fried Roll…

III. Vietnamese Grilled Beef in Wild Betel (Bo La Lot)
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The soul of Bo La Lot is wild betel (“la lot” leaf) which is used as wrapper to wrap ground beef/ beef slice. Bo La Lot roll is smaller than Goi Cuon and other Vietnamese rolls. It’s as small as human finger because wild betel is small. The cook can make filling by mixing ground beef, ground pork, minced lemongrass, ground pork fat/pork fat oil (optional), minced wild betel (optional). Fillings could be pork belly slice and beef slices, pork belly must be inside beef.

It takes a few minutes to grill the roll on char coal. The cook should change sides of the roll continuously so that the betel isn’t dry and the meat must be well-done. Bo La Lot roll is topped with pork fat oil or green onion oil and crushed peanut. This food is usually eaten with Rice Vermicelli Sheets (Banh Hoi), vegetables and herbs, sweet and sour fish sauce dip, pickled carrot.

Vietnamese rolls - bo la lot

Vietnamese rolls – Bo La Lot

Ho Chi Minh city (or Saigon) is a non-sleeping city. While they may not be as bright and shiny as the city is covered by a new coat. It becomes more and more splendid and elegant with twinkle street lights and traffic lines. Why not experience the buzz of Saigon’s nightlife on the back of a Scooter with our Private Saigon Street Food Tour By Night on Motorbike?

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