Water bug chronicles: the secret ingredients in Hanoi’s rice rolls


The Origins of Banh Cuon

Banh cuon, a delicacy with roots in Hanoi’s Thanh Tri Village, has been elegantly portrayed as Hanoi’s true culinary masterpiece in the literary work “Hanoi’s 36 Streets.”

Thanh Tri Village’s Unique Delight

Thanh Tri’s version of the rice roll distinguishes itself with the inclusion of the elusive water bug, ca cuong (Lethocerus indicus), a creature residing in the tranquil waters of ponds and swamps.

A Legacy Written in Hanoi’s Culinary History

Hoang Thi Lan, at 68, is a beacon for this tradition, having inherited the art from her foremothers, who graced Hanoi’s streets with this tantalizing treat.

The Lan Legacy

Hoang Thi Lan’s Journey with Banh Cuon

From the busy streets to her thriving eatery, Lan’s story is one of passion, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to authenticity.

A Generational Handover: From Lan to Cuong

As the torch passes to the fourth generation, Cuong, the family’s cherished recipes continue to tantalize taste buds in the bustling Old Quarter of Hanoi.

The Modest yet Celebrated Restaurant

Amidst awards and accolades, the restaurant stands as a testament to a legacy that began when Lan was merely 15, honing her culinary skills.

Crafting the Perfect Banh Cuon

The Art of Rice Selection

With meticulous care, Lan chooses the perfect Khang Dan rice, ensuring each roll embodies the perfect balance between tenderness and firmness.

The Cooking Dance of Banh Cuon

Watching Lan in her element, one witnesses the beautiful ballet of banh cuon creation; from the even spreading of batter to the careful retrieval of perfectly steamed rolls.

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The Rise of Meat and Mushroom Variants

While tradition holds strong, innovation has carved a space in the form of meat and mushroom-filled rice rolls, relished equally by locals.

The Aromatic Water Bug – Ca Cuong

Ca Cuong as an Exquisite Flavor Enhancer

The intense aroma of grilled ca cuong offers a flavor explosion, elevating the banh cuon experience to gourmet levels.

The Rarity and Cost of Authenticity

As ca cuong becomes rarer, establishments may offer imitations, but for Lan, only the genuine water bug provides that unparalleled richness.

The Legacy in the Eyes of Loyal Customers

Voices of the Heartfelt Fans

For many like Hoa and Nguyen Trong Hoi, Lan’s rice rolls are not just food but an emotion, a memory, and a taste of authenticity they return to, time and again.

In conclusion, the tale of Hanoi’s banh cuon is more than just about rice rolls; it’s a journey through time, legacy, and the sheer love for food. The water bug, ca cuong, though a tiny ingredient, holds a large place in this narrative, symbolizing the quest for authenticity in an ever-evolving culinary landscape.


  1. What is Banh Cuon?
    • Banh cuon is a traditional Vietnamese rice roll, originating from Thanh Tri Village in Hanoi.
  2. Who is Hoang Thi Lan?
    • Hoang Thi Lan has been a guardian of the family’s banh cuon tradition since 1960, and her family’s culinary history stretches back generations.
  3. What makes the Thanh Tri variant of banh cuon unique?
    • It’s distinguished by the inclusion of a rare water bug called ca cuong.
  4. How has the dish evolved over time?
    • While the traditional variant is adorned only with scallion fat, there are now versions filled with meat and mushrooms.
  5. Why is ca cuong considered special?
    • Grilled ca cuong releases an intense, aromatic flavor, enhancing the overall dining experience.
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