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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7 Responses to “Making Traditional Banh Trang”

  1. Kenny Ma says:

    Now I know why Banh Trang has that pattern on it! Thanks Thy!

  2. Michelle says:

    This is fascinating! How lucky you were to get to make your own, whole grain even! It looks like it was delicous.

  3. 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!

  4. […] A fun docu of how rice paper wrappers are made. — You might want to show your kids! […]

  5. Viren says:

    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!

    -Viren

  6. Susana says:

    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:)

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