If you walk the streets of Vietnam, you will get bombarded with an array of amazing smells from the abundance of street food all around you. One famous street foods that not only can you smell, but hear is Banh Xeo.
Banh Xeo is Vietnamese sizzling crepe or sizzling pancake. It is named for the loud sizzling sound it makes when the rice batter hits a hot skillet. This savory thin pancake is filled with thin slices of pork belly, whole shrimp, mung beans, and bean sprouts. Once the pancake is crispy on all sides, it’s folded over with a spatula and slide onto a serving platter and served with a variety of fresh vegetables and Vietnamese herbs and a side of fish sauce dipping sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham).
Vegetables and herbs include lettuce, mint, fish mint (Rau Diep Ca), sorrel (Rau Chua), Vietnamese balm (Kinh Gioi), Vietnamese perilla (Tia To), and pickled daikon/carrots (Do Chua).
Traditionally, Banh Xeo is eaten with the hands. You tear off a piece of Banh Xeo, wrap it in lettuce and other assorted Vietnamese herbs, and dip it into the dipping sauce.
Banh Xeo batter is made from a mixture of rice flour, coconut milk and turmeric powder.
When I make Banh Xeo at home, I usually get the premix Banh Xeo flour and make a few adjustments. I add a bit more rice flour to make it crispier, a bit more turmeric powder for a yellower color, and dash of MSG (optional) and salt. Everything is mix together with a bit of water and coconut milk.
I also discover recently that the addition of egg makes the batter richer and crispier. The egg yolk provides the richness while the egg white helps with the crispiness when fried. The egg yolk also makes the batter yellower without using too much turmeric.
If you get a chance to visit Vietnam, grab a seat on one of the tiny plastic stools at one of the street vendor stalls, order a plate of Banh Xeo and a cup of Vietnamese iced coffee (Ca Phe Sua Da). Sit back and enjoy the meal as you watch the beautiful synchronization of mopeds and pedestrians and contemplate how people not get run over more often.
Vietnamese Sizzling Crepe / Pancake (Banh Xeo)
Makes 8-10 pancakes
- 1 packet Banh Xeo flour (12 oz)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 80 grams rice flour
- 1 teaspoon refined sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon MSG
- 1 can coconut milk (13.5 fl oz)
- 3 cups water
- 1 egg (beaten)
- 3-5 green onions (slice thinly)
- 1 pound pork belly
- 15-20 whole shrimp (size 21-25; peel and devein)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pork/chicken/mushroom stock powder(divided)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 3 garlic (mince)
- 1 small shallot (mince)
- 1/3 cup dried split mung beans (wash until water runs clear and soak overnight)
- Fish Mint (Rau Diep Ca)
- Sorrel (Rau Chua)
- Vietnamese Balm (Kinh Gioi)
- Vietnamese Perilla (Tia To)
- 1 lb fresh bean sprouts
- 1 small yellow onion (slice thin)
- Vietnamese Fish sauce dipping sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham)
- Vietnamese Pickled daikon and carrot (Do Chua)
- Large nonstick skillet with lid (preferably two for faster cooking)
- In a large mixing bowl and using a large whisk, mix together flour, tumeric powder that came with the flour, additional turmeric powder, rice flour, sea salt, MSG, coconut milk, water and egg until completely disssolved. Add green onions and set aside to rest for at least one hour. The longer the batter rests, the crispier it will be when fried as flour expands.
- Clean the pork and shrimp by vigorously rubbing them with salt. Rinse under cold running water and drain dry. Slice pork belly into thin pieces. Marinade shrimp and pork belly with stock powder (1/2 teaspoon each).
- In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil on medium high. Add minced garlic and shallot and saute until fragrant. Add pork belly and panfry until evenly cook (about 7-10 minutes). Add shrimp into same pan with the pork and lightly pan fry until no longer translucent (1-2 minutes). Remove pork and shrimp from skillet and set aside.
- Put the presoaked mung bean in microwave-safe bowl and fill with water to cover by 1 inch. Place in microwave uncovered and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Drain and set aside.
- To make the pancake/crepes, coat a large non-stick skillet with a thin layer of vegetable oil. Ladle in about 1 cup of batter and immediately pick up pan and swirl batter around to cover the bottom and sides of skillet. Add a small amount of sliced onions, mung beans and bean sprouts, pork belly and two shrimp to one side of the pancakes. Cover skillet with lid and cook for 5 minutes on medium high. After 5 minutes, remove lid and allow the pancake to dry out and become crispy. Once you get the desired crispiness and pancake can be loosely shaken from the skillet, use a spatula to fold the pancake in half. Slide pancake onto a serving platter. Repeat wtih remaining batter and ingredients.
- Serve pancakes with fresh vegetables and herbs, pickled daikon/carrots, and a side of Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham).