Making Traditional Banh Trang

Before machine-made banh trang (rice paper) became popular, my aunt, Di Yen, and cousin, Trinh, produced rice paper in Viet Nam by hand and sold it locally in their town just north of Saigon. On my last visit back, I asked them to show me how they used to make it. They prepared a special batch from stone-ground, whole-grain red rice. Rice bran, stored in that big metal drum, drops down to fuel an earthen stove. Gently steaming water rises through tightly stretched cloth and cooks the very thin, smooth rice batter in seconds. My cousin, who hasn’t done this for a year, still remembers the rhythmic choreography of stirring, ladling, spreading, rolling and unrolling. Of course, she makes it all look so easy!

Each mat, as it’s covered by still warm and wet banh trang, is arranged in the sun so that the rice paper can dry completely into the delicate, translucent rounds that we love so much. Look closely and you might notice that the roller is covered with the leg fabric from an old pair of jeans.

(The voices you hear are my mom and me.)


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Author: Thy Tran

San Francisco-based writer specializing in history and culture of food.

8 thoughts on “Making Traditional Banh Trang”

  1. Thy. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it. I will never, ever take a single wrapper for granted, even the machine made ones. Hopefully one day I will try one made by the hand!

  2. This was written so well and explained so thoughtfully thank you!

    Do you by chance know how the drying process is done now? Do people still use the drying racks or is there a machine for that now?

    Thanks again for sharing and in such detail!


  3. Thanks! I had been looking for an explanation like this for years…Beautiful, thanks for sharing this bit of culture, and congratulations to these ladies for keeping a treasure alive:)

  4. Looking for a good recipe. Can your family share? I need to use organic rice and there is no organic rice paper in the stores that I have been able to find.Any help would be appreciated. Great video! Reminds me of making what a relative who has long since passed “Swedish Pancakes, which are a type of crepe. Got the hang of that, so I can do this, but need a good recipe as that is just as important as cooking process.

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