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Bánh bèo nhân tôm

Posted date:  August 5, 2009

Bánh bèo nhân tôm, steamed noodle topped with shrimp and croutons, Hoi An

I didn’t really take to Hoi An. Don’t get me wrong, the city’s famed Chinese and French-colonial-style buildings were beautiful, and the setting was pleasant. But virtually every single structure seemed dedicated to selling t-shirts or overpriced food to tourists, and there seemed to be more of the latter than locals. And on top of all this, when I was in town, the town’s central market was in the process of being rebuilt, which apparently caused many of the local vendors I had read about at EatingAsia to stay at home. That’s why, after having walked around in search of a meal on my first day, I was happy to discover the scene below:

Eating bánh bèo nhân tôm, steamed noodle topped with shrimp and croutons, Hoi An

This street vendor was feeding a steady stream of satisfied locals, and was one of the few eating options in Hoi An’s old town that didn’t seem to be aimed specifically at Western tourists.

A closer look, not to mention help from a friendly local, revealed that she was making bánh bèo nhân tôm (pictured above), a round noodle steamed in a ceramic cup. At each order the woman tops the noodle with a creamy orange mixture made from shrimp, and a sprinkling of crispy croutons:

Serving bánh bèo nhân tôm, steamed noodle topped with shrimp and croutons, Hoi An

The dish had a lot in common with cao lầu, another of Hoi An’s signature dishes, both in the slightly dark colour of the noodle and in the use of croutons. The result was equal parts soft, salty, creamy and crunchy — a perfect example of the disparate ingredients, flavours and textures the Vietnamese are so absolutely brilliant at combining.

Bánh bèo nhân tôm
Hội An

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7 Comments for Bánh bèo nhân tôm

Ack, hope they’re not prettifying the market. We prob spent half our time in Hoi An there — and ate most of our meals as well. Agreed re: old town. Pretty but soulless.

Hey Austin, I’m a subscriber of your blog for several months now but this is my first comment. It’s nice seeing you in Vietnam! Central Vietnamese cuisine may be on the boring side. I hope you can stop by Saigon to explore the more eclectic selections that the the South has to offer during this short stop in VN. Take care and I love your photos btw!

HEH, I also subscribed to Robyn’s Eating Asia!

-a Washingtonian reader

Ann I’d have to disagree. Central Viet cuisine is anything about boring. Now, if you want to talk N Viet food….

I found your work in Saveur this month and love your blog. I can’t wait to visit Southeast Asia one of these days. Can’t wait to see more! –B.

Robyn: Not sure exactly what their plans are, but the market is a bit of a mess at the moment… Was disappointed, particularly after having read your blog.

Ann: I think I’d have to agree w/ Robyn, I really loved the food I ate in central Vietnam, particularly in Hue. Stay tuned here for details.

Broderick: Thanks for stopping by!

Just discovered your site–really great photos of classic Vietnamese dishes. Banh beo is one of our favorites and the photo captures the street scene beautifully. We almost always eat on the streets or market’s in Vietnam–and avoid any semblance of westernized restaurants. This vendor’s version is interesting in that the color of the rice cake is typically white–wonder what she added to hers. The crispy pork cracklings do add a great touch!

[…] started with the dish above, bánh bèo. Mentioned previously, the dish takes the form of a noodle steamed in a ceramic cup and topped with a savoury shrimp […]

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