Banh Uot Cha Lua Chay (Vegetarian Vietnamese Rice Noodles)

Banh Uot Cha Lua Chay (Vegetarian Vietnamese Rice Noodles) Recipe

This vegetarian dish is Cậu Hoà's (my uncle) favorite. Since we live near San Jose, I'm fortunate to be able to find ready-made bánh ướt. It literally translates to "wet cakes". They're sheets of rice and tapioca noodles. The assembly of the dish, after steaming the rice noodle sheets, is ultra simple. 

I accompanied the rice noodles with Vietnamese tofu ham called chả lụa chay (you can find the recipe in my second cookbook, Banh Mi.) I also added fried tofu, steamed bean sprouts, fried shallots, cucumber and a wide array of Vietnamese herbs. The vegetarian dish is then "watered" with nước mắm chay. I just discovered vegetarian nuoc mam made of pineapple juice, which is similar to but less pungent than real fish sauce. 


Yields: 8 servings

8 shallots, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons canola oil, as needed
1 (12-ounce) package firm tofu
4 tablespoons fried onions, freshly fried (reserve the flavorful onion oil)
4 logs chả lụa chay (or store-bought)
3 Persian cucumbers, shredded
1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning salt (or regular table salt)
3 cups soy bean sprouts, steamed-microwaved
3 cups combined cilantro, Vietnamese mint (rau thơm), shredded cucumber and lettuce
2 cups nước mắm (simply substitute pineapple nuoc mam for the soy sauce


Preparing the tofu: Shred the tofu into ¼-inch thick long pieces. In a small saucepan, heat the oil. Sprinkle with mushroom seasoning salt. Fry the pieces until golden. Cut the pieces in half crosswise. Transfer the tofu onto paper towels.

Assembly: Gently unfold the cold rice noodle sheets. Place them onto a heat-proof plate. You could either steam-microwave the noodles or heat them up traditionally in a steamer pot. Cut the tofu ham  the same size as the fried tofu, then steam-microwave it as well. Repeat the same procedure with the bean sprouts. 

Transfer the softened rice noodle sheets to a plate. Cover with cucumber, fried onions, the fried tofu, aromatic herbs (see tips), tofu ham and bean sprouts. Drizzle with several tablespoons of pineapple nước mắm chay.

Bon appétit!


Count about 5 rice noodle sheets per person.

Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the filling. You can find it at gourmet specialty stores or in most Korean stores. If you live in the Bay Area, check out Marina Foods, 10122 Bandley Drive, Cupertino, CA 95014.

If not using homemade chả lụa, I buy the vegetarian tofu ham at the temple in San Jose. You could also use shredded chicken and  find chả lụa gà (Vietnamese-style chicken ham; it's a thick cold sausage that is tightly wrapped and steamed in banana leaves) in any Asian grocery stores. .

If you wish to make your own bánh ướt, simply combine 16 ounces of rice flour and 14 ounces of tapioca starch. Wet the mixture with 12 cups of water and season with a bit of salt. Whisk well until there are no lumps. Using a silicone brush, coat a flat, non-stick pan with oil. Stir the batter one more time and ladle a thin layer (count about 3 tablespoons of batter) into the pan. Lift the pan and then tilt and rotate it until the batter is evenly spread and forms a nice, very thin disk. Drizzle with a little oil. Cover with a lid and let it steam for a few seconds. Once the color becomes slightly transparent-white, drizzle with onion-flavored oil and loosely fold the rice noodle sheet and transfer to a platter. Drizzle with more oil.


Published By: Jacqueline Pham on September 4, 2014.


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