Barbecue beef with starfruit

Banh cuon

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Food and Travels: Asia

Food and Travels

By Alastair Hendy

Published 2004

  • About

In Hoi An, cooked beef is rolled up in rice papers with slivers of starfruit, plantain and herbs to make banh cuon [summer rolls]. Banh cuon sellers make their own rice papers from a rice flour paste, gracefully swirling the batter across muslin that is tied taut-as-a-drum across a steamer. We don’t have the time or skill for such fiddle, so use instant rice paper wrappers instead: dunk rice papers in a dish of warm water for a few seconds and then leave on a tea-towel until they go limp. Arrange strips of cooked meat on top with slivers of starfruit [and possibly some plantain), plus herbs, turn in the edges to overlap the stuffing, then roll up tightly, and cut in half to serve, dunking each mouthful in nuoc cham dipping sauce. Or do as I suggest below.


  • 1 stick lemongrass, trimmed and very finely chopped
  • 2 small shallots, roughly chopped
  • 3 cm piece fresh galangal or root ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • pinch of five-spice powder
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 large fillet steak or boneless pork steak, thinly sliced into strips
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp runny honey

To serve

  • 1 starfruit, shredded into thin strips
  • a handful of fragrant herbs, such as mint and basil
  • nuoc cham


In a mortar or processor, pound or blend together the lemongrass, shallots, galangal, garlic and five-spice powder with a smidgen of salt and some pepper to make a coarse paste, flash in the sugar and 1 tbsp of the fish sauce. Tumble this with the sliced meat until it is well coated. Leave to bathe overnight or for as long as possible.

Just before grilling, add the oil and stir through to coat. Mix the remaining 1 tbsp fish sauce with the honey in a small bowl. Thread the strips of prepared meat lengthways on to skewers (so the meat lays out flat), then brush with the honey mixture and briefly grill over or under a fierce heat, turning once, until the meat is cooked and caramelized on both sides. Charcoal will give the most authentic flavour. Eat with strips of starfruit, herbs and nuoc cham dipping sauce, or with rice vermicelli and a sprinkle of toasted crushed peanuts.