One of the most common breakfast items in Vietnam is banh cuon – steamed rice rolls. It is great to start the day with a hot off the steamer banh cuon. But you can enjoy it any time at Banh Cuon Ba Hoanh, a popular restaurant in Hanoi specialize in this humble dish.
Banh cuon is made and served on many street corners around Hanoi. You can order them with or without filling. For the one with fillings, ingredients range from stir-fried minced pork with wood ear mushroom to chicken egg or minced shrimp.
Banh Cuon Ba Hoanh
Banh Cuon Ba Hoanh locates in the Hoan Kiem District, the central of Hanoi. A restaurant with more than 100 years is a favorite place among locals for a great plate of banh cuon.
The current owner’s grandmother is the founder of Banh Cuon Ba Hoanh. She worked until 83 before passing the restaurant to her child and then grandchild.
For years, the restaurant stills follow the same traditional method to produce good steamed rice rolls. Only a few more items are added in recent years to meet the customer’s demand.
Good rice rolls start from good rice. The rice then goes through the soaking, grinding, and sieving process. A ladle of the liquid rice mixture is poured into the banh cuon’s steamer for seconds before skillfully taken out with a flat wooden stick.
A serving of banh cuon usually includes a plate of steamed rice rolls, cha que – Vietnamese ham with cinnamon flavor, fresh herbs, and a warm fish sauce dipping sauce. The sauce is topped with a heaping tablespoon of fried shallots, a great topping that can’t be missed when eating banh cuon.
Unlike other places that serve steamed rice rolls with fillings, the one at Banh Cuon Ba Hoanh is plain and served cold. You are supposed to dip the white steamed rice pieces into the dipping sauce and eat them with Vietnamese ham.
Menu and Price
The main food item at Banh Cuon Ba Hoanh is, well, banh cuon. They have two sizes available, one at 25.000VND and the other 30.000VND (~1 dollar 30 cents).
You can order other food items to go with your steamed rice rolls, like grilled pork, gio lua – Vietnamese pork ham, gio bo – Vietnamese beef ham. Depend on how many people are in your group, the server will suggest a suitable size plate of these extra items, weight, and charge accordingly.
We ordered a plate of grilled pork on our visit. But we felt that the grilled pork, while being flavorful, did not go with steamed rice rolls as well as cha que – the traditional topping item.
A special item you can order with banh cuon is ca cuong at 50.000VND for one (~ 2 dollars 20 cents). Ca cuong – lethocerus indicus is an edible insect native in South and Southeast Asia. People extract its essence by collecting the liquid producing sacs. It is the pheromone created by the male that attracts females of the same species.
You can add a drop of ca cuong essence to banh cuon‘s dipping sauce. Its unique aroma goes well with the food and elevates its taste. Some eat fried ca cuong like other edible insects.
Since the demand is high when the lethocerus indicus is available in limited quantity, it is not cheap and easy to buy. Only a few places that serve banh cuon in Hanoi have ca cuong on their menu. And Banh Cuon Ba Hoanh is one of them.
Apart from banh cuon and its topping, Banh Cuon Ba Hoanh sells some other traditional Vietnamese steamed treats. You can have them at the restaurant or buy take out to enjoy with your family at home.
1 USD ~ 23,015 VND
Banh Cuon Ba Hoanh
Address: 66 Tô Hiến Thành, Bùi Thị Xuân, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Opening Hours: 6am – 8pm Daily