Saigon rice pancake restaurant: 50 years and still going strong

By Di Vy   July 27, 2019 | 02:51 pm GMT+7

A modest eatery selling rice pancakes on Cao Thang Street, District 3, has been a favorite for generations of Saigonese.

Hai Nam is hidden away between houses and clothes shops. The front is only around 2 meters wide but inside there is space for two rows of tables and chairs. There is also private parking space.

Though crowded, the shop does not use machines or makes rice pancakes or banh cuon in advance; they are hand-rolled when there is an order.

The chef said the cake dough is very important: "We mix rice flour with tapioca starch in the exact proportion so that the cakes are smooth, not sticky or runny."

At first glance making them seems simple enough. Yet it takes a lot of experience and proficiency to be able to spread and roll the cakes as quickly as she does. The chef must pour the batter and spread it evenly on the boiler and then make sure the cakes are taken out in time. Next, she must carefully peel off the thin cakes without tearing them.

A serving costs from VND40,000 ($1.7). The price goes up a bit if you order extra pork patties and rolls.

A serving costs from VND40,000 ($1.7). The price goes up a bit if you order extra pork patties and rolls. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

The freshly made pancakes are soft and delicious with a filling made of ground pork, wood ear mushroom and dried shrimp. The store uses home-made fried onion to ensure good flavor and hygiene.

The dipping sauce is very rich and southern. Bean spout and shredded lettuce goes on top.

Regular customers usually order fermented pork rolls and green bean shrimp cake. The shrimp cake has a crunchy crust, soft green bean and taro and a big shrimp inside.

Huy Hoang, a District 7 resident, said that he has been in love with this dish since he first tasted it: "The pancakes are thin, not at all overwhelming while the filling is very flavorful. The price is also reasonable considering the shop's location in the city center."

A serving of green bean shrimp cake costs VND18,000 ($0.8).

A serving of green bean shrimp cake costs VND18,000 ($0.8). Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

Besides pancakes, the store also offers many other options such as water fern cakes, noodles soup, fried noodles, and crab soup udon. The coconut glutinous rice cake is especially popular.

Cakes are hand-rolled upon orders.

Cakes are hand-rolled upon orders. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

 
 
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