Quickly served, affordable and most importantly mouth-watering, pizza from Italy has long established its name as everyone’s favorite fast food, but somewhere in the streets of Vietnam, a contending dish is rising – the grilled rice paper, Vietnamese pizza.
The Vietnamese grilled ricepaper is originally a street food associated with Đà Lạt. Started out as a mere sheet of ricepaper grilled on charcoal stoves with fat scallion topping, the dish quickly gained popularity among tourists, as its heat perfectly complements the coldness of the city. Inevitably, vendors selling grilled ricepaper had to compete against each other by renovating the dish, churning out more and more variations and thereby blessing this once uncouth snack with a level of complexity and diversity. News about this wonderful street munching spread as fast as lightning, and soon it became ubiquitous throughout the country.
Video shot by Chi Le and edited by Son Nguyen
Saigon is another center for grilled rice paper vendors. Here it adopts the nickname ‘Vietnamese pizza’ from the analogy drawn between the two dishes. Indeed, this food with its round base and triangular servings may remind one of the Italian pizza, but on close inspection, it’s easy to see how far the grilled rice paper departs from its seeming ‘counterpart’. The key element that sets the dish apart is its rice paper base, which turns extra-crispy when grilled. On top of that base are stir-fried scallions and often dried shrimps coated in egg yolk, making for a bright yellow finish dotted with green. Sounds tasty already, but the real selling point of this street food is its openness to modifications: dried shrimps can be replaced by beef jerky, sausages, chicken or pâté and quail yolks can stand in for the chicken yolk, plus mayonnaise or cheese can be added to enhance the flavor. This allows individual vendors to effectively customize their grilled rice paper to create such unique and delicious results.
The flexibility of this dish means you can create one in your own kitchen. Follow these steps as demonstrated in the video above.
Ingredients: a sheet of rice paper, scallions, dried shrimps (or other ingredients of choice e.g. beef jerky or chicken), 1-2 egg yolks, mayonnaise, cheese and chili sauce (optional)
- Spread the rice paper on top of the charcoal stove (other cooking methods applicable, but charcoal stove is recommended to create an authentic taste)
- Beat egg yolks and mix with scallions
- Pour the mixture on top of the rice paper sheet and spread evenly
- Once the yolk is nearly cooked start scattering pieces of dried shrimps on top
- Move the rice paper around on the stove to evenly grill its edge
- Wait until the rice paper achieves a nice brownish yellow and add mayonnaise and chili sauce
- For the finishing, fold the rice paper in half
Words by Duy Nguyen
Video by Son Nguyen & Chi Le
Photos by Phuc Nguyen