Rice papers are fairly unique to Vietnamese cuisine. Triangular or circular in shape, rice papers or wrappers (Bánh tráng) are made from glutinous rice flour, water and salt. When dry, they are brittle to hold but after being soaked into water for only a few second, they become quickly pliable and chewy in texture – ideal for wrapping the food.
Rice papers are usually plain and tasteless, but there are exceptions as sometimes they are flavoured with coconut, ginger or pandanus (similar to vanilla). Additionally they can be toasted so that they puff up and have a even more chewy texture.
Packets of dried rice papers are easily available in Asian stores and supermarkets.
Rice papers are dried on bamboo mats, which give them the familiar cross-hatch pattern.
Fresh rice papers
In addition to dried papers, the Vietnamese make fresh rice papers (banh uot), which are used exclusively for wrapping minced (ground) meats.