Southern Vietnam: Bò Bía

In addition to the developing duck embryo (balut), we had homemade bò bía. It’s a type of rice paper roll with jicama, egg, basil, Chinese sausage, hoisin sauce, and hot sauce (Sriracha sauce). Some versions may include carrots, daikon, and/or Vietnamese mint leaves. My parents and their classmates would get them from a street vendor during their childhood days in Cholon (a Chinese community in Saigon).

bo bia

The photo below captures how it was prepared. The rice wrap was dipped in hot water and placed on a plate, before the sauces and the rest of the ingredients were placed on the rice paper. You need to eat it as soon as it’s made, otherwise the rice paper will harden over time.

making of bo bia

Here’s some info ’bout bò bía, from Hungry Huy:

The name bò bía is likely a Vietnamese adaptation of the Chinese name and roll “popiah” which is pronounced similarly to bò bía. These two foods are quite different though. When bò bía was adapted by the Vietnamese the ingredients changed likely to match local taste and ingredient availability. The first noticeable change is the rice paper wrapper (bánh tráng) instead of a wheat based one. Other changes include the sauce and removal of ingredients like yams, green beans, bean sprouts and more. Popiah is also different in that it has fried variations.

Bò bía, or a type of fresh spring rolls, have a good amount of vegetables in them. Despite the Chinese sausage, these rolls are fairly light, making them suitable for snacking throughout the day. They aren’t typically served as full meals.

And some more info, from Wandering Chopsticks:

Bo bia are the Vietnamese spring rolls version of popiah, a Hokkien-style spring roll popular in Singapore and Malaysia. (If you sound out bò bía with the proper Vietnamese accent marks, they both sound similar. This is not to be confused with bò (beef) and bia (beer) with no accent mark.) The fillings are slightly different and the Vietnamese version uses rice paper wrappers instead of wheat, but in both versions, the spring rolls are stuffed with jicama.

Hokkien cuisine hails from the Fujian province of China, and I can only assume that immigrants must have brought the recipe with them and then adapted it when they dispersed to Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam. I also remember eating a Thai version once long ago, and am assuming that’s courtesy of the Fujianese again.

Bo bia are a common street snack in Saigon, where many Fujianese immigrants settled.

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