What we say:
One of my favourite street foods is the Vietnamese appetiser or snack, goi cuon. Whenever I find myself on the street, looking for a quick bite to eat, I seek out what I think is one of Vietnam’s must-try foods.
Like its name suggests, goi cuon, also known as summer rolls, is from the same family of street food as banh cuon. They share the same soft, rice paper wrap. But the similarities end there; unlike banh cuon, summer rolls are served at room temperature and the tightly wrapped rolls have a bit of crunch to their bite. In fact, everything is so tightly wrapped that it’s hard to know exactly what’s inside without biting it in half.
The construction of goi cuon is simple. Small slices of pork, some lettuce and other greens, vermicelli noodles and a prawn or two are wrapped in soft rice paper. The meat is on the outside, the vegetables and noodles in the middle. One word of caution: very rarely is the prawn de-shelled. It is cooked to a point where the shell is soft enough to eat, and apparently be safe, so most cooks see no reason to remove it. You can easily separate the prawn from the roll and take the shell off yourself but you will probably get some confused looks from the locals. When you order your plate of rolls it will be accompanied by a sauce for dipping, the most popular being a dark, sweet peanut sauce.
Goi cuon is one of the rare street foods that are seldom sold alone but you shouldn’t have much trouble finding it, especially if you’re in a market. Although you may be lucky enough to find a vendor only selling summer rolls — a lot of drink ladies sell it as a snack to go with one of their tasty beverages — usually goi cuon is a companion dish to a more proper meal. I’ve had the most luck finding it at banh tit nuong or banh xeo stands, but there is no set in stone rule. If you’re not sure about the carts on the street you can tuck into good goi cuon at Banh Xeo 46A. (I thought their summer rolls were better than their banh xeo.)
One of the things I like most about summer rolls is that they are bright; the white, rice paper exterior wrapped around the green vegetables and orange prawn. They make a great snack, or you can get four or five of these bad boys and make yourself a meal. Either way, you should go out of your way to find goi cuon; very rarely would I say you have to try a particular street food but for summer rolls I make an exception
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