Rice noodle rolls

Pho cuon Ha Noi 2

What I always put in my priority when introducing Hanoi to my new friend, especially a foreign one is the cuisine. Traditional Hanoi food is greatly admired for its delicate preparation process. Ranking the first place on the top of my list is rice noodle rolls (Vietnamese: bánh cuốn).

In Hanoi, Thanh Tri is best known for this type of food. Although it is about 10 kilometers far from the capital’s center, there are still tones of people gathering at this city everyday trying to taste the real dish. The rolls are famous for their thinness and elegant taste. Before presented for using, they are slightly decorated with tiny pieces of fried onion. Being placed on banana leaves, the rolls’ whiteness becomes outstanding but gentle. The famous writer Vu Bang says it is somehow representing a beautiful slim girl standing in a crowd – quiet but noticeable in his masterpiece about Hanoi.

One essential item to be used with the rolls is the dipping sauce. A perfect one has to be tasted with four flavors: sour, spicy, salty and sweet but neither too much nor too little. Gently chewing a piece of roll flavored with the sauce, you are about to experience a special feeling – something like an ideal combination between music and lyric. More stunningly, traditional cooks do not add fresh chili to make it spicy. They use a bug’s essence instead. Such bug is well known as “cà cuống” in Vietnamese. The dish is now enjoyed in a way that is both strange and familiar. How wonderful!

There are still plenty of things I want to talk about rice noodle rolls. “Eating is believing”, however, I strongly recommend anyone who has not been to Hanoi take my writing into consideration to feel a part of my beloved city.

Dang Thu Thuy