Not Pho or Banh Mi, the two Vietnamese specialties that are widely known around the world, but Banh cuon or steamed rice crepe was named on the list “Top 10 meals around the world in 2023: The dishes we can’t wait to eat” by traveller.com.au.

Representing Vietnam as the world’s best dishes

The simple yet delicious specialty of Hanoi: Banh cuon. Photo: Ha Huyen Trang

According to Ben Groundwater, the staff writer from the travel magazine, Vietnamese food is just incredible. Everything he had tried is pretty good, from the noodle soups to the grilled meats to the herby salads to the turmeric-heavy pancakes.

“The dish I really want to explore in 2023, however, is banh cuon (Vietnamese steamed rice crepe),” he wrote.

“There’s a certain magic to the way these big sheets of steamed rice noodles are made before they’re wrapped around savory fillings and served with herbs and sauce,” he went on.

Different from Westerners, Vietnamese tend to choose some dish savory and filling breakfast to give them enough energy for the whole day and banh cuon is one among them.

Together with Pho or Vietnamese traditional noodle soup with beef or chicken; Banh mi or Vietnamese baguette with pork fillings; Xoi or steamed sticky rice, among many others, Banh cuon is a familiar dish for breakfast for many Vietnamese, especially the ones who live in big cities like Hanoi.

The delicacy’s secret  

 The dish of Banh cuon nong is one among favorite dishes for breakfast of Hanoian. Photo: Dia diem an uong   

Although the Banh cuon is made from everyday ingredients such as rice, oil, and onions, the combination of such elements creates a special flavor that attracts many diners.

There are several variants of banh cuon. For the dish of banh cuon nong or hot stuffed rice crepe, the paper-thin sheets of steamed rice are stuffed with minced wood ear mushrooms, and pork. It is always served hot with grilled pork, cha or Vietnamese ham to eat accompanied with sweet-and-sour dipping sauce.

The dish is also usually topped with a few sprinkles of crispy fried shallots for an extra crunch and fragrance. Some fresh herbs such as mint and coriander are also served alongside.

For the dish of Banh cuon Thanh Tri (steamed rice crape from Thanh Tri District, Hanoi), the steamed rice crepe is not rolled, but kept in sheets without any filling, and sprinkled with green onions.

The dish of Banh cuon Thanh Tri is usually served cold with Vietnamese ham. Photo: Duy Khanh 

When eating, each of these ivory white thin layers of crepe is peeled out and placed on a plate, which is then arranged on a small bamboo mantle with herbs and a bowl of sweet-and-sour sauce. The Banh cuon Thanh Tri is eaten with Vietnamese Cha que or Vietnamese ham with cinnamon flavor dipped in the sweet-and-sour fish sauce.

The last but not least, Banh cuon Cao Bang or steamed rice crepe from Cao Bang Province is the latest version of Vietnamese steamed rice crepe.

Originally from Cao Bang province in the mountainous northeast of Vietnam, the specialty of this group of Tay ethnic minorities has gradually cemented its position on the Hanoi cuisine map.

Totally different from other types of banh cuon, the Banh cuon Cao Bang is eaten with minced pork paste, fried meat roll, steamed egg, and spicy salted bamboo shoots that can be found in the mountainous areas of Vietnam only.

Different with other versions of steamed rice crepes, which are usually eaten with sweet-and-sour sauce, banh cuon Cao Bang is served with broth made of pig’s bones. Photo: Bich Hoi

When ordering a Cao Bang rice rolled crepe, diners are treated to a show in which the cook lifts an edge of the crepe up, then gently wraps it over with a stick and puts it on a dish to serve it hot right after a few minutes of ordering.

The piping hot crepe is milky white and rolled with minced meat. It attracts diners not only because of its eye-catching appearance, but also the quality of the dish. The hot aroma broth with herbs is a well-blend condiment to enhance flavor and make Cao Bang rice rolled crepe tastier.

Other world delicacies in the Traveller’s list of “Top 10 meals around the world in 2023: The dishes we can’t wait to eat” include Grilled turbot of Spain, Oklahoma smash burger (United States), Moke Negro (Mexico), Short eats (Mexico), Sushi (Japan), Ragu Napoletano (Italy), Sarawak Laksa (Malaysia), Duck sausage (Australia) and Tahdig (Iran).