Vietnamese Food

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Vietnam is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea, referred to as East Sea (Vietnamese: Biển Đông), to the east. With a population of over 86 million, Vietnam is the 13th most populous country in the world.

Fresh roll cake at Gia An Restaurant - Banh Cuon

While it may not be the first dish to come to mind, Gia An provides foodies with some of the best banh cuon in the city. Mai Huong takes a taste.

Eat up:White rice crepe with salted ruoc tom dipped in the sauce give a true taste to banh cuon.
Tasty treat: Banh cuon ruoc tom is a popular dish in Gia An Restaurant. VNS Photos Truong Vi

Gia An Restaurant
- 25 Thai Phien St, Ha Noi,

Tel: 04-66588710               04-66588710               04-66588710          

- 18A Le Thanh Tong St, Ha Noi,

Tel: 04-39335978               04-39335978               04-39335978          

- 62 Tran Dang Ninh, Ha Noi,

Tel: 04-66589920               04-66589920               04-66589920          

-.111/8 Lang Ha, Ha Noi,

Tel: 04-35625957               04-35625957               04-35625957          

- 108A6 Tran Huy Lieu, Ha Noi, 

Tel: 04-37264696               04-37264696               04-37264696          

  • Hours: Breakfast: 6am to 1pm
  • Dinner: 4pm to 9pm
  • Price: from VND7,000-34,000 (US$0.37-1.80)

Comment: Flavourful food made under strict hygienic standards.

Banh cuon ( roll cake), or steamed rice pancake, is a breakfast favourite for many Hanoians. Maybe you are already familiar with banh cuon Thanh Tri, a speciality of Ha Noi, but have you had the chance to try the savoury banh cuon Gia An, from the northern port city of Hai Phong?
I discovered banh cuon Gia An by chance when I went to the Vincom City Tower with friends. Located adjacent to the largest commercial centre in Ha Noi, the restaurant attracts shoppers who are after a light meal.
I have tried banh cuon countless times, from street vendors to expensive restaurants, and until now I've found it pretty much the same everywhere. Still, since it was too early for lunch, we thought we'd give it a try and were surprised with what we found.
A comfortable space without a door, filled with light fresh air, welcomed us. Inside, three long rows of square brown tables and chairs are placed close together. The shop is bustling with many customers and waitresses taking non-stop orders. Its interior decoration may be bland and simple but it still manages to be welcoming and comfortable.
Banh cuon Gia An offers two main dishes, vegetarian banh cuon and meat stuffed banh cuon, along with a number of side dishes such as cha ran (fried pork sausage), ruoc tom (salted shredded shrimp), thit nuong (grilled pork), cha que (cinnamon sausage) and fresh chicken eggs.
Vegetarian pancakes, like banh cuon Thanh Tri, are not actually rolls, but thin layers of soft rice paper eaten with thit nuong or ruoc tom and fried onions. Meat stuffed banh cuon, meanwhile, are long steamed rolls filled with a mix of minced pork, tiny shrimp, mushrooms and jelly ear fungus wrapped in a delicately thin rice sheet.
To enjoy the dish, diners dip a section of the roll into a bowl of warm fish sauce, an integral part of savouring the dish. Gia An's special dipping sauce recipe distinguishes it from other banh cuon restaurants.
While the fish sauce at other restaurants is often pre-made, Gia An's dipping sauce is unique because it is made from pigtail bone bouillon. It tasted a bit bland at first and I was a little disappointed, but a squeeze of fresh lime emphasised all of the flavours, giving it a delicious sweet and sour taste, just as I like it.
I realised the sauce is prepared for customers to flavour it according to their own tastes. I like that patrons can add more spice, peppercorns and fresh lime to suit themselves.
I ordered vegetarian banh cuon with ruoc tom and cha ran. I was presented with a plate layered with thin rice crepes, garnished with several sprigs of fresh green herbs and granules of bright orange ruoc tom, which were topped with dried fried onions. It was eye-catching and looked yummy.
I dipped a corner of a rice crepe that I had covered with a little ruoc tom into the sauce, added two leaves of fresh Vietnamese basil and a piece of cha ran. The tenderness of the rice paper combined with the flavour of the ruoc tom and the scent of the fresh herbs that lingered after my bite made me shudder at its deliciousness.
My friends agreed the sauce was tasty and not too salty like many other restaurants.
I finished my crepes within 10 minutes, a personal record for eating banh cuon, and had to resist the urge to order a second portion.
I returned to the restaurant a few days ago and was lucky enough to meet the manager, Pham Thanh Tuan. He told me banh cuon Gia An has opened 5 restaurants in Ha Noi and is aiming to develop the brand as a chain, similar to Pho 24.
Tuan explained the restaurant's name. "Gia An" came from the Gia in gia truyen (tradition) and An from An Duong, a famous banh cuon village in Hai Phong. He said the owner of the restaurant chain was born in Hai Phong and had a desire to introduce this speciality from his homeland to food connoisseurs in Ha Noi.
On my second visit I ordered hot rolled rice pancakes with meat stuffing. I liked the texture of the hot and tender rice paper and flavoured meat mingled with the sweet and sour sauce in my mouth.
During my studies overseas, I dreamed of food from my homeland. I was fed up with bread and jam and my mouth watered for hot and flavourful food, such as pho, bun and banh cuon.
I missed the familiar sight of a woman skilfully rolling rice pancakes over a linen base and then stuffing them with meat. Unfortunately, that sight is still missing at banh cuon Gia An because all of the rolled rice pancakes are prepared somewhere else then steamed on the premises to save time and labour.
Modern life seems to have made the traditional ways of enjoying food somewhat far away and outdated.
However, I really appreciate the restaurant's high hygiene standards. In many ways, food safety is more important than price when choosing a place to eat out.
Cooks at Gia An Restaurant wear nylon gloves when they're preparing food, which they change every 15 minutes. All of the furniture, equipment and the rest of the interior are always kept clean and there is a rubbish bin under each table.
Enjoying a nice meal is just one of many ways to appreciate life's beauty and banh cuon Gia An is a nice place to enjoy with family and friends, both for breakfast and a light supper. Give it a try if you want to explore the fresh taste of a familiar dish.

P/S: With this posts i hope you will have a good idea for your meal if you have a travel to Vietnam or want to find a new taste. In the following articles, I will introduce some other restaurant in Vietnam.


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