• Vietnamese pizza at Shop Bao Ngoc in Melbourne (Shop Bao Ngoc)
This pizza-inspired street food originating from Dalat is all the rage among Vietnamese students.
By
Audrey Bourget

10 Dec 2019 - 12:13 PM  UPDATED 10 Dec 2019 - 12:15 PM

Vietnamese pizza are two words you likely haven’t heard together since the bánh mì pizza trend of the mid-2010’s, but in the city of Dalat, Vietnam the dish takes a different form.

“All over the world, everyone knows about Vietnamese phở, they know about the bánh mì, and they know about the rice paper rolls, the gỏi cuốn, but not many people know about this dish yet. It is called bánh tráng nướng and everyone in Dalat absolutely adores it,” says chef and host of Luke Nguyen’s Railway Vietnam, Luke Nguyen.

Bánh tráng nướng is a street food, often called Vietnamese pizza. It’s a round rice paper, covered in egg-bound toppings, and grilled over charcoal.

Bánh tráng nướng is a street food, often called Vietnamese pizza. It’s a round rice paper, covered in egg-bound toppings, and grilled over charcoal.

Chef Jerry Mai of Melbourne’s Annam, Phở Nom and Bia Hoi says the street snack has spread in popularity across the country.

“Vietnamese pizza originated in Dalat. I’d seen it there for the first time around 9-10 years ago, and every time I’d go back, it would slowly [spread further into] Saigon and Hanoi. Now, it’s available nearly everywhere,” says Mai.

Vietnamese pizza Luke Nguyen's Railway Vietnam

In Vietnam, you’ll find several street stalls specialising in bánh tráng nướng. Cooks put a rice paper on their charcoal grill, and then crack and quickly beat an egg (most often quail’s, but sometimes chicken’s) on top of it. Customers can then choose from a range of toppings like mayo, pork floss, Sriracha, green onions, dried shrimps and cheese. Cooks have to keep rotating the rice paper roll so it grills evenly. The result is a crisp, savoury and spicy snack.

“What you put in it is entirely your own creation. Believe it or not, Vietnamese kids and people in general love Frankfurts, so they’ll have sliced up Frankfurts, pork floss, and some sort of butter or cheese,” says Mai.

Her favourite Vietnamese pizza stall is in Saigon. Run by a husband and wife, you’ll find it in Notre Dame Square.

In Dalat, Nguyen visits Bánh Tráng Nướng Dì Dinh on Hoang Dieu Street. It’s a big business, with six grills fired up and they sell around 800 Vietnamese pizzas every day (pictured above).

In Dalat, Nguyen visits Bánh Tráng Nướng Dì Dinh on Hoang Dieu Street. It’s a big business, with six grills fired up and they sell around 800 Vietnamese pizzas every day.

If you order to take away, your Vietnamese pizza will be folded like a taco and wrapped in newspaper. If you eat at a table on a plastic stool, you’ll get your pizza on a plate and a pair of scissors to cut it into pieces. Some stalls, like Bánh Tráng Nướng Dì Dinh, can also roll them like a crêpe.

They cost around AU$1.25, making them a favourite of students and young Vietnamese.

The success of Vietnam's vibrant street food culture means that new dishes get invented on the regular.

"It starts out with one street vendor who has an idea, and it becomes popular, but it's constantly changing. What you have this year won't be there in two years. Our food and culture don’t have to stay stagnant," says Cindy Tran of Shop Bao Ngoc, in Brunswick.

Both Tran and Mai were inspired by their time in Vietnam to make their own version of Vietnamese pizza.

At Shop Bao Ngoc, Tran prepares it as a special. She loads the rice paper with a beaten chicken egg, ground pork, pork floss, spring onion and chilli mayo.

At Annam, you’ll also find Vietnamese pizza on the menu from time to time. Mai has done a version with nduja and Laughing Cow cheese, as well as one with nduja, Sriracha, Kewpie mayo and Yarra Valley salmon roe. At Bia Hoi Bar, she used to make one with lap cheong, egg, pork floss and Laughing Cow cheese.

You can try putting in a special request when you go to Annam, Bia Hoi Bar or Shop Bao Ngoc, but we suggest you do so on a quiet day, as making Vietnamese pizza requires the full attention of the chef. “It’s a labour of love, it takes time,” explains Mai.

If you can’t find it at a restaurant, Mai suggests you keep an eye out for it at Vietnamese festivals and during the Lunar New Year Festival, which is held next year around 25 January.

 

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Follow our Vietnamese food crawl from the south of Australia to the north. Next stop, a steaming bowl of Pho in Canberra. For an on-the-ground food crawl catch the new series of Luke Nguyen’s Railway Vietnam where he travels from the south to the north of the country, chatting, tasting and cooking along the way. Watch it 7:30pm on SBS and Sundays at 9pm on SBS Food from 5 2019 December to 30 January 2020 or on SBS On Demand.

From Luke with love
Vietnamese food crawl: Melbourne’s other Little Saigon
Skip the city and spend an afternoon in Melbourne’s east enjoying banh mi, chips with red curry aioli and a killer bánh xèo.
Vietnamese pork meatballs (Bánh mì xíu mại)

Most mornings in Dalat, people eat this beautiful, light, clean dish for breakfast.

Lemongrass-stuffed snails (Ốc nhồi thịt)

A farm to table dish, Luke collects the snails in the rice fields and vegie patches to prepare a dish much-loved by the Dalat people. You can source your snails from a local snail farmer.

Frogs chargrilled in bamboo (Ếch ống tre)

A traditional dish, this bamboo cooking technique was created to preserve the ethnic minority of cooking in Dalat.