This kid's been noshing on Bánh tráng trộn since the yester-years, but it's time to officially christen this bag of jewels with the long overdue global-stamp of approval. Snack of the year? No doubt. I reach for a bag of B.T.T. (mixed rice-paper salad) when my tummy's just empty enough for a bit of sustenance- but not quite starved enough for 1/2 kilo of steamed kernels.
Rollcall: Clockwise from bottom left; dried shrimp, crispy fried onions, peanuts, salt and pulverized dried shrimp, rau răm (Vietnamese coriander), quail eggs, chili oil, onion infused oil and dried beef. On the top in the yellow basket is shredded green mango with a squirt bottle to attain adequate saturation levels. Got all that? The ingredients vary between sellers- other options I've seen: scallion oil, tamarind sauce, deep-fried quail eggs, spicy shredded dried beef..the list goes on.
Besides the Bánh tráng trộn option, where the aforementioned ingredients are mixed with shredded rice paper, you can also opt for the essence of Vietnam rolled up in a neat little package; Bánh tráng cuốn. Unlike the steamed fresh rice-paper rolls Bánh Cuốn, these rolls use dried rice paper which is a bit odd to chew on if you're a virgin to it.
Global Tip (for Bánh tráng trộn): Wait about 20 seconds to let the sauce and ingredients soften the paper- but eat within 5 minutes or you've got straight mush on your sticks of chop.
This is Việt Nam in a bag. You just can't doubt that. All the top players are in attendance. You've got your salty dried seafood representing the endless coastline, bright, fresh herbs that play a part in almost every Vietnamese dish, the sweet and sour mangoes hailing from the lush Mekong Delta and just enough heat from the chilies to let you know your heart's still beating. The most unconventionally spectacular dish this side of Sông Cửu Long.
A great Bánh tráng trộn can be found at Hồ Bơi Nguyễn Tri Phương (Nguyễn Tri Phương Swimming Pool on Đồng Nai street, Cư Xá Bắc Hải, D. 10). Only 5.000 a bag.