May 19 2013
While most street food in Saigon could almost be classified as fast food, where you sit down and pretty much immediately start eating, some dishes from the streets make you work a little harder: banh trang is a case in point.
In the world of Saigon street food, a restaurant advertising banh trang is where you head for Vietnamese wraps. Banh trang refers to the edible rice paper used in a variety of dishes throughout Vietnamese cuisine but at a banh trang restaurant it’s used to make fresh wraps. The quality and texture of the paper varies depending on where you’re getting it. A street vendor selling the snack banh trang nuong will usually be using a thinner, more transparent paper while a proper banh trang restaurant will use something a little thicker.
When ordering banh trang, your only basic choice is what kind of meat you want. You’ll have several options, the most popular being boiled pork (thit luoc) and beef thigh (bap bo), which will come in two sizes, big or small.
This is a street food that is generally meant to share — as far as serving sizes go, this is one of the bigger street meals you’ll get. When your meat comes to the table it will be accompanied by a platter of green vegetables, pickled carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts and a healthy bowl of nuoc mam. While the dish is eaten country-long, it differs slightly in the south with the addition of vermicelli noodles.
With all the food on the table, your wrapping work begins. Peel off a piece of banh trang, stack it with your meat, add the vegetables and wrap it up like a burrito, using the nuoc mam as a dip. There’s not really a wrong way to prepare your wraps, so go crazy! Be warned: if your banh trang is feeling a bit tough, makes sure you’re not actually eating two pieces that are stuck together.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a cart on the street selling banh trang; look for the higher-end street establishments, something with a ceiling and walls. This is one of the more expensive street food offerings in Vietnam; for a meat and vegetable banh trang kit, expect to pay around 100,000 VND per person. On the plus side, this means the spots that sell it will be generally be nicer, with normal sized seats, good lighting and plenty of fans.
For a great platter of banh trang, I’d recommend checking out Hoang Ty on Vo Van Tan in District 3. If you’re worried about eating in a restaurant with no wall facing the street, Wrap and Roll, with several locations around Saigon, is the more corporate version of banh trang, albeit still a decent choice.
72 Vo Van Tan, District 3
T: (08) 3930 5210
Wrap and Roll
62 Ha Bai Trung, District 1
T: (08) 3822 2166
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