A stall hidden away in an alley of Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung District offers an appealing world of rice paper dishes from the south.
Banh trang tron, or rice paper salad, one of southern Vietnam’s specialties, is very popular among young Hanoians. The dish is reasonably priced and brings together harmoniously a number of many different tastes.
It was introduced to the north only a few years ago but has already become an indispensable snack for students and even office workers.
Many rice paper salad stalls have opened all over the capital, but standing out among them is one called Hem Banh Trang (Rice Paper Alley) at No.7 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street near Thien Quang Lake.
Guests have to go through an alley with yellow walls into the small courtyard of an old house to reach the stall. They can leave their motorbikes in the yard.
Rice Paper Alley in Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung District. Photo by Nguyen Chi.
The dishes are served in small round-shaped or boat-shaped bamboo baskets with banana leaves at the bottom, which makes it both appetizing and environment-friendly. The cooking area brings to mind Hanoi’s beloved street food scene.
The menu at Rice Paper Alley is diverse, and new dishes are added every few months. Of course, one dish that is always on it is rice paper salad made from shredded rice paper, laksa leaves, shredded green mango, dried beef, and dried squid.
The dish also includes Vietnamese rice crackers, slices of fermented pork and chicken eggs instead of the quail eggs served at other places.
The food is only made on order to avoid wastage. The salad is well seasoned, chewy and rich.
Another dish, banh trang cuon (rice paper rolls), are always served in the bamboo boats, 10 of them arranged in two rows. The filling is similar to ingredients of the rice paper salad but the top is sprinkled with a creamy sauce.
Banh trang phoi suong (dew-wetted rice paper) is also a must-try dish here. Rice paper is wetted in dew to make it softer and chewier.
It is eaten with another layer of rice paper underneath, some herbs, a piece of fermented beef, some shredded green mango, a portion of egg, and a piece of crispy pork skin, all rolled neatly and dipped in sweet and sour tamarind sauce.
The dishes are displayed in baskets with green banana leaves. Photo by Nguyen Chi.
Banh trang nuong, or grilled rice paper, is on the menu, but only available sometimes during weekends.
Another version of this dish is shredded grilled rice paper, which is popular among foodies. The dish is full of cheese like a pizza, and when broken the cheese is chewy. The filling is abundant and has butter, which makes it delicious.
The price of a dish is VND20,000 – 35,000 ($0.87-1.52). Lemon tea, kumquat tea and daisy ginseng tea are served here and cost VND15,000.
The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and food can be taken out or bought on food applications.