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[Video] A Day in the Life of Vietnam's Bánh Tráng Artisans

Rice paper has been a mainstay of Vietnam cuisine, with consumers often preferring homemade versions over industrial made ones, which has created a thriving cottage industry in the Mekong Delta.

Anyone who’s spent a significant time in the Vietnam can tell you, versions of bánh tráng are served in a seemingly endless variety of ways. They can be eaten with fresh fish, used as makeshift utensils to spoon shellfish, or served like crackers – making it a popular snack found in bars.

Despite the variety of ways rice paper is consumed, there is a consensus about what qualifies as the best rice paper. Most people agree that it’s best when it’s homemade.

Nguyen Thi Hue served some to AFP from her roadside snack shop on the southern end of Can Tho province. "It's better than the factory version, try it, it's tastier," she said.

Hue sources her product in the village of Thuan Hung, which is famous for producing some of the finest bánh tráng in the Mekong Delta, which holds the distinguished title of “the rice bowl of Vietnam.”

Many families earn their living producing rice paper, despite the fact that newer factories have turned out variations on the old theme that include shrimp, coconut, and even durian flavors.

Bui Minh Phi, a third-generation rice paper maker in Thuan Hung explained to AFP: "Customers prefer those produced handmade in the village. We don't use chemicals, they're just natural." He often earns $65(USD) per day creating and selling this staple food. Twice that during Tet.

Vietnam is well-documented as being a place where locals have a strong preference for home-style, hole-in-the-wall dining over fast food. 

Locals are attached to a rich and diverse street food culture, and traditional culinary arts are a part of heritage.   

For many rice-paper makers, that heritage is one passed through their families from generation to generation, and one that continues to persist, even in the face of modernization.

Get to know the daily life of Vietnam's bánh tráng makers below:

Video via YouTube channel AFP news agency.

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