News in Hoi An Ancient Town
Wrose (banh bao vac), a type of shrimp dumpling made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose. Many people like these cakes not only for their delicious flavor but also for their beautiful appearance. The French gave it the name of "white roses".
It is basically a dumpling comprising of two small 2-inch diameter rounds of rice paper, with a dime-sized lump of meat filling right in the center. When the rice paper is steamed, the edges get soft and chewy and warp a little, making the dumpling look like a white flower. They are presented about 15 on a plate, topped with crunchy bits of toasty garlic and served with a sweet dipping sauce. When prepared well the texture is soft but slightly chewy, sweet from the sauce and crunchy/salty from the toasted garlic, savory from the shrimp meat filling. The translucence of the flour along with the color of the shrimp meat gives it the appearance of a white rose petal.
The recipe for these dumplings is secret, held by one family in Hoi An who supplies all the restaurants. At 533 Hai Ba Trung Street, Tran Tuan Ngai is a third generation secret keeper of the traditional white rose recipe.
Ngai’s grandfather first created the light and fluffy dumplings for family dinners. They became so popular that he started selling the dumplings to his neighbors. When demand increased, he turned a part of his house into a bistro. Making the white rose is not as easy as it looks.
Ngai cooks and grinds white rice from the Mekong Delta. He only uses the water drawn from the old Ba Le well, which is filtered and purified 15-20 times before being mixed with the rice paste to form airy dough. Then, he rolls out the dough and cuts into small circles. He takes some filling - made of minced shrimp mixed with spices - places it in the center of each circle of dough, and deftly wraps it in the shape of a rose.