Bánh xèo – crispy Vietnamese pancakes

These hot and crunchy filled crepes are known as banh xeo in Vietnam. In Vietnamese, banh xeo means “sizzling cake” for the sound the pancake batter makes when added to the hot pan.

Banh xeo is a cold weather comfort food dish that’s as delicious as it is surprising. There’s just something about banh xeo that makes it out of this world for me.

When I  first tasted banh xeo I couldn’t imagine how wrapping them in thin rice paper could possibly enhance them, but it certainly does, it’s another textural dimension on top of the extra crispy pancake. The crispness comes from the rice flour used in the pancake mix, coconut milk or Beer, not dairy milk, being the liquid ingredient.

Each banh xeo holds a few bean sprouts, a couple of plump prawns and a few slivers of finely cut pork. I wrap my banxeo in leaves and herbs, particularly mint, and dip in the sweet, sour, hot fish sauce or nuoc mam.  Happy Days!!!

Ingredients

  • 400 g rice flour (14oz)
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 500 ml water (2 ¼ cup)
  • 250 ml beer (or coconut milk)
  • 3 stalks spring onion chopped
  • 500 g small white shrimp tips and legs trimmed
  • 300 g pork belly thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper, Fresh vegetable platter: lettuce/mustard leaves, mint, cilantro, perilla etc.
  • Dipping sauce “nuoc cham”
  • 40ml of lime juice, (about 1 and a half medium limes)
  • 100g of rock sugar, crushed
  • 40ml of fish sauce
  • 80ml of water
  • 25g of garlic, finely chopped
  • 12g of red chillies, finely sliced

Instructions

1

Start by making the dipping sauce. Place the lime juice, crushed rock sugar, fish sauce and water in a small saucepan and bring to medium heat to dissolve the sugar. As soon as the sugar has melted, turn off heat and leave on the side to cool down. When completely cooled down, add the garlic and chillies and mix well. Can be stored for up to 5 days in the fridge

2

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the rice flour, turmeric powder and salt in water. Add beer (or coconut milk) and chopped spring onion. Stir well and let the batter rest for 30 minutes.

3

Season the pork belly and shrimp with salt and pepper. Set aside.

4

Heat a heavy- bottom skillet (20cm/8-inch diameter) on medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp vegetable oil. Add 2 shrimps and a few pork slices and fry until the shrimps and pork change color on both sides. Ladle some of the batter (about 1/3 cup) and tilt the pan in a circular motion to spread the batter evenly. Cover and fry for 1 minute. Uncover and add some bean sprouts, then cover again and fry for another 1 minute.

5

Fold the crepe in half so that the 2 shrimps stay on opposite quarters. Fry for another 1 minute and transfer to a plate.

6

Repeat until you finish the batter. If you can manage 2-3 pans at a time, it’s faster.

7

To serve, use scissors to cut the crepe in half. Take a large piece of lettuce or mustard leaf (rau cai) or softened rice paper, place some herbs and half a crepe on top. Roll it up, dip in the dipping fish sauce and serve.

Notes

Other tips to make crispy banh xeo crepes: – Use a good frying pan with thick/heavy bottom, especially cast-iron pan – Use more cooking oil (2-3 tbsp) for each crepe. (I used 1 tsp in the recipe for health purposes) – Use less coconut milk (or not at all) in the batter. Use beer instead. – Fry 2 times: For the first fry, only make the crepes and stack them on each other until you finish the batter. For the second time, fry the crepes again and add bean sprouts.

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