Characteristic to Banh Xeo is the penetrating yellow color of the crispy pancake, the irresistible smell that is released when the batter hits the hot pan and sizzling (xeo) sound, that’s how the dish got its name.
In Vietnamese restaurants Banh xeo is often on the menu, because very typical Vietnamese, but I always notice a ‘hesitation’. First the squid are always missing, this is an addition from the coastal city Nha Trang, which is together with he pork belly my favorite meat in Banh Xeo. The pork belly in restaurants are often replaced by dry chunks of pork because “Westerners do not like fat meat”. A real horror is when the pork is replaced by chicken fillets, dry and dull meat and especially not Vietnamese.
It is always a special moment when Banh xeo is served. With a large family, my mother starts very early in the morning preparing in the kitchen. After that she stands the whole day behind the hot wok to fry her perfect crispy pancakes. She would rather cook at one time, because the delicious pancakes air also gets in your hair and clothes, then my mom can walk straight to the shower right after the cooking.
Ingredients (about 12 pancakes)
This recipe includes shrimp, pork belly and squid, but you can fry by adding and omitting meat to the taste and preference of the eater. Sometimes coconut milk is used in the batter and mung beans are added. My mother does not use coconut milk, which she finds too creamy for the pancakes and they won’t get crisp. She finds the mung beans rather counterproductive to the taste. I totally agree.
To make myself easily during cooking, I cut all the meat and place it on a large plate, the onions and bean sprouts I have sliced and cleaned ready in a colander. So I have everything at hand.
Rice flour batter
- 250 g rice flower
- 750 ml water
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp salt
- put the batter into a large bowl with a serving spoon
Meat and vegetables for the pancakes
- pork belly, in thin slices
- young squid, lightly blanched or steamed, cut into rings. Leave the tentacles whole or halve, a true delicacy.
- shrimp, lightly blanched and halved lengtwise if shrimps are large
- onions, sliced (not too thin, they’ll burn quickly)
- spring onions, sliced (optional)
- bean sprouts
Tomato fish dipping sauce and dressing
For Banh xeo you can use the basic fish dipping sauce. The sauce that we use at home is tomato based what gives the crispy pancakes a nice freshness.
- 200 ml of water
- 120 g of sugar
- 1 or 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced
- 75 ml fish sauce
- mixed lettuce
- cucumber, thinly sliced
- fresh herbs to taste: dill, coriander, mint, Thai basil, etc. (dill is very good with Banh Xeo)
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, water, turmeric and salt until the batter has a watery substance. Let the batter stand for a while, it gradually gains a slightly yellowish color. During baking, occasionally stir into the batter, not to let it thicken.
- Put for the tomato sauce, sugar and tomatoes in a pan of water. Cook the tomatoes over low heat until soft and the skin is releasing a bit. Remove the pan from the heat and add the garlic and chili peppers. Season with fish sauce and let cool.
- Make sure that everything you need to cook the pancakes is ready. Put in a large wok or non-stick frying pan some oil and turn up the heat. First add the slices of bacon and fry until almost done, then add the onions and spring onions with it. Fry until the meat is just done. Then add some blanched prawns and squid . Make sure the meat is spread over the pan but not against the edges.
- Pour with the ladle some batter over the meat (about 100 ml), the batter must be distributed all over the pan. Reduce heat and sprinkle some bean sprouts on the pancake. Put the lid on the pan and cook for 2-5 minutes. Remove the lid of the pan and check the underside. Leave a moment when the cake is still soft. Gently fold the pancake so that it has a half moon shape. Let rest for about 2 minutes, then turn the pancake over and let the other side get crisp in 2 minutes. Remove the pancake from the pan and store on a large plate. Repeat the frying process. At some point you will get the right touch with the best amount of batter and frying time. This may just be a little different each time.
- Banh xeo is eaten in a bowl with fresh vegetables and herbs, or rolled in rice paper and lettuce leaf. At the dinner table you put a large plate with the lettuce leaves, cucumber and fresh herbs and the plate with pancakes. If using rice paper, place a large bowl of hot water to soak the rice paper. Everyone gets a plate and a bowl of sauce. Those who want to eat the pancake from a bowl, also get a big bowl for that.