Vietnamese Banh Cuon in Saigon at Bánh Cuốn Hải Nam

Banh cuon is a Vietnamese dish of rice batter crepes, filled with a savory meat filling. More details coming soon:

Before going to Saigon this trip, I had eaten it a number of times, and it had always been one of my personal favorite Vietnamese snacks or light meals / foods. Although it’s originally known to be a northern Vietnamese food, it’s widely available throughout Saigon as well, from street food stall to nearly every market. When I was in Saigon, I went to a restaurant called Bánh Cuốn Hải Nam a number of times, once with Kyle (), and a few other times as well. It was quite good, and though there are many other places to eat banh cuon in the city, this restaurant was very close to where I was staying, so it was very convenient.

So what is banh cuon? It is a Vietnamese means rolled cake, and it all begins with a thin batter that’s made from rice flour and is lightly fermented. On top of a pot that has water boiling below, there’s a cloth that’s pulled onto the top, in order to be the crepe steamer. The thin batter is poured on top of the steaming cloth, flattened into a thin crepe, then covered and steamed for just a few minutes. The wrapper really only takes about 1 minute to steam, and them it’s carefully removed with a wooden stick, and filled with a mixture of minced pork, garlic, wood ear mushrooms, and in this case I noticed some small dried shrimp in the mix as well. After the banh cuon is rolled up, it’s then put onto a plate, cut up into pieces, garnished with bean sprouts, lettuce, and the all important handful of crispy shallots. Sometimes you’ll find other toppings and the addition of Vietnamese sausage on top, but the version at Bánh Cuốn Hải Nam came with the sausage on the side.

In order to eat the rice crepe rolls, you must have the Vietnamese sweet fish sauce dipping sauce, which at this restaurant was sitting on every table in an inviting jar. After putting a scoop of the fish sauce into my bowl, I then added in a scoop of fresh crushed chili to give it even more flavor. I have to say that banh cuon is one of my favorite Vietnamese light foods or snacks. The outer crepe wrapper is thin, silky and just slightly sticky, while the inside filling is savory, meaty, and has a wonderful garlic flavor. The sweet fish was is salty and tangy, and the extra spoon of chilies also adds some marvelous flavor.

Along with my plate of rice crepe rolls, I also ordered a plate of something called banh beo, this version topped with minced pork. Banh beo are small steamed rice cakes, and the batter in this case had a wonderful coconut milk flavor to it – so I think they used coconut milk into the bottom pancake mixture? The banh beo was wiggly and creamy, and the same meaty pork mixture was placed on top along with what I think was a handful of yellow crushed shrimp… or coconut, I’m still not sure. Anyway, it was quite good, but overall I think I preferred the banh cuon over the banh beo.

Bánh Cuốn Hải Nam
Address: 11A Cao Thang road, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Open hours: 7:30 am – 10:45 pm daily

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Food eaten and video produced by Mark Wiens and Ying Wiens: &
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