It’s street food. And, no, it is nothing like Italian pizza. It’s real name is bánh tráng nuong but is fondly nicknamed Vietnamese pizza. Grilled rice paper with sauce, egg, dried shrimps, cheese and scallions on top. We enjoyed it in Saigon and it was superb.
Are we back in Saigon? No, not yet. We do plan to go back in the future but not just yet. In fact, we’re homebound now. We’re having a massive house renovation, we hope to finish by the end of the third quarter and start traveling again in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, we haven’t stopped trying to reproduce dishes we’ve enjoyed during our travels. My younger daughter, Alex, made Vietnamese pizza a few nights ago and I was reminded that I never got to write about this very popular Saigonese street food.
It was toward the end of the street food walking tour when we were introduced to Vietnamese pizza. Light and crispy, the egg that binds to the rice paper as it cooks adds volume to the crust.
Story has it that bánh tráng nuong originated in Dalat where thick rice paper is used as crust. But, as its popularity spread, various versions were born. In Saigon, thin rice paper is used. The toppings? Anything goes, really. The one we had had sausages, shredded chicken, fried shallots, cheese (of course!) and scallions.
Out on the streets, Vietnamese pizza is grilled over live coals. According to our tour guide, it is especially popular among college students so the best ones can be had near schools. Curious how Vietnamese pizza is cooked? Here’s a short video that my daughter, Alex, took when we were in Saigon.
In case you decide to visit Saigon and you want to try Vietnamese pizza, you won’t be such newbies as we were.
Your Vietnamese pizza will be served straight off the grill.
All sauces and condiments are on the table. If you don’t have a local for a guide, it’s best to taste each sauce and condiment first before using. Remember that once in the pizza, you can’t take it away anymore. So, try the sauces and condiments first. A drop, a pinch.
Drizzle sauce on the pizza then sprinkle with condiments. Fried shallots are especially good as they provide a subtle sweetness and light crunch.
You may roll the pizza into a log, cut into bite-size pieces (shears are provided) and enjoy! Remember to dip in sauce for extra flavor.
If you prefer to eat Vietnamese pizza the way you would Italian pizza, use the shears to cut it into wedges. I must warn you though that it’s quite challenging to lift a wedge without the toppings sliding off and the sauce dripping down your chin. But I guess that’s really part of the fun.
Is Vietnamese pizza something that’s easy to make at home? Yes, actually. While there’s nothing like char-grilling, you can make it on a stovetop grill or a heavy skillet. I’ll post a Vietnamese pizza recipe soon.