Mrs. Ha’s rice rolls eatery is one of the well-known restaurants in Ha Giang in the northern highlands, which has been in business for three generations.
On weekends, Mrs. Ha sells nearly 1,000 servings of banh cuon, or steamed rice rolls, each day. Sometimes, there are up to 100 customers dining at the eatery.
Mrs. Ha, 88, is unable to pinpoint the precise date that her family first began selling rice rolls. She only recalls beginning to assist her parents at the restaurant when she was quite little. She still assists in setting up the tables each morning and brings the dipping broth to the customers despite her advanced age.
Mrs. Ha helps with her family’s steamed rice rolls eatery in Ha Giang Province. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Phuong
“The place is quite crowded, so sometimes we cannot serve the food quickly enough,” she said. “I hope it does not bother our customers when they have to wait a while.”
Bui Thai, Mrs. Ha’s daughter, is a third generation successor to the family business. Her mother taught her how to prepare banh cuon when she was a little girl. Thai said that the restaurant is busiest on Friday through Sunday, when many visitors visit Dong Van old town, which is 160 kilometers from Ha Giang.
“Everyone has to wake up at 1 a.m. to prepare the ingredients,” she said.
Bui Thai puts plates of rice rolls on a tray as her customers wait in line. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Phuong
Ingredients for making rice rolls Ha Giang style include rice flour, ground pork, wood ear mushroom, pork bones, pork rolls and spices. Thai explained that the rice flour is locally purchased. The flour is soaked overnight to soften it and then is mixed with spices which transform it into a white batter. When customers order, Thai will pour the batter onto a specialized steamer to cook. The rice batter is finished cooking after about three minutes. She then stuffs it with pork and stir-fried woodear mushrooms before rolling it up. The rolls are divided into smaller pieces and placed on a plate. Fried shallots and coriander are then added on top.
Rice rolls in Ha Giang are served with a cup of dipping broth, instead of fish sauce like in other regions. Pork bones are used to boil the broth, giving it a savory and sweet flavor. Customers say that eating rice rolls with hot broth keeps them warm on chilly mornings.
Rice rolls topped with pork floss and fried onions are served with a bowl of hot broth that contains sausages, herbs and chili. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Phuong
Pork rolls are served along with the broth in a separate bowl. The broth is a little light, so you can add seasoning to your liking.
The rice rolls are still steaming when they are served. Most diners adore the dish for its soft rolls and the combination of flavorable fillings such as fried shallots and herbs.
Van Nam, a tourist, said that Mrs. Ha’s rice rolls are soft and delicious. The broth is something new to him as well. “The shop is very crowded, thus the food is made to order. If you are in a hurry, this place may not be the one for you,” he said.
The store offers egg rice rolls called banh cuon trung in addition to conventional rice rolls. After the batter is poured onto the steamer, the cook adds an egg, and lets the dish cook for a few minutes. The result is the delicious slightly yellow rice rolls.
Mrs. Ha’s shop is open from 6 a.m. to noon. Each order costs VND35,000 ($1.48).
Eggs are added to the rice paper before it is rolled up. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Phuong
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