Banh Trang Nuong, or Vietnamese Pizza, is a popular street food among young people in Vietnam. It resembles pizza with an assortment of fun toppings. However, instead of a thick dough as the base, you have a thin sheet of rice paper. Instead of tomato sauce, you have a quail or chicken egg beaten directly on top of the rice paper and spread evenly. The egg prevents the rice paper from burning, and it serves as a glue for the toppings. There's no right or wrong topping. Some people like to add a Western spin with cheese and cut-up hot dogs. Whereas I like to keep mine very traditional with exotic Southeast Asian flavors, such as fermented shrimp paste (Mam Ruoc), dried pork, and Sriracha sauce.
Banh Trang Nuong didn't exist during my mom's and mother-in-law's times. So when I asked them how to make it, they thought I was referring to a particular type of rice paper and not the appetizer. Banh Trang Nuong, the rice paper, is thick. It usually has black sesame seeds baked into it. It is grilled or microwaved to get puffy and hard. It's brittle so it's broken apart by hand into small pieces and used to scoop up minced meat. I love my Banh Trang Nuong, the thick rice paper, to scoop up minced snake. Yep, it's a thing in Vietnam, and it is really delicious.
Funny enough, Banh Trang Nuong, the appetizer, doesn't use this type of thick rice paper. Instead Banh Trang Nuong the appetizer uses regular spring roll rice paper. It's much thinner so it gets crispy when grilled. However, the rice paper is still pliable. This makes it possible to fold or cut.
The process of making Banh Trang Nuong is a lot of fun. In Vietnam, Banh Trang Nuong is made right there on the street with a small charcoal grill. The vendor would add on the toppings, and turn the rice paper on the grill to get it nice and crispy. Then she folds it over, wraps it in old newspaper, and it's ready to eat on the go.
The tricky part of this dish is rotating the rice paper on the grill while spreading the toppings evenly. I couldn't do both without getting too close to the fire and burning myself, or without burning the rice paper. It took two of us to make one pizza.
The result after a couple of third degree burns was a tasty little snack. It was crispy, savory and delicious. I'm ready to take this craft of making Banh Trang Nuong on the suburban streets of California.
In the YouTube video below, we intelligently decided to make Banh Trang Nuong outside while a storm was brewing in the distance and fast approaching. The rice paper was flopping in all directions. Towards the end of the video, you can hear the howl of the wind just seconds before it started pouring. It was a lot of fun in the frenzy, but boys and girls, don't make Banh Trang Nuong outside when a storm is coming.
Banh Trang Nuong Recipe
10 thick rice papers
20 quail eggs or 10 chicken eggs
1/4 cup shrimp paste (Mam Ruoc)
1/4 cup pork floss (dried pork)
1 bunch of green onions sliced thinly and microwaved with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil for 30 seconds.
Dried small shrimp (Soak in cold water for 15 minutes. Drain. Rinse then chopped finely. Toast on pan until dried and fragrant)
Sate Sauce (Chili paste)
On very low heat, add rice paper to grill.
Crack two quail eggs or 1 whole chicken egg directly onto the rice paper.
Use the back of a spoon to evenly spread the eggs.
Add rest of ingredients as desired and use the spoon to evenly spread toppings.
Make sure to rotate the rice paper so that all the edges are evenly grilled.
Fold over the rice paper when all parts are crispy. Then serve.