Today we will make the crispy Vietnamese Pancake – Bánh xèo.
This dish is probably one of the most well loved snack anywhere in Vietnam and you can easily find it in Hanoi, Saigon or somewhere in central Vietnam. Each place has his own version of Bánh xèo with a slight variation in the ingredients. Some place will add mung beans, chicken, mushroom or even a vegetarian version.
However the basic of Banh xeo includes a crunchy golden pancake, wrapped around the filling inclusive of pork, shrimps, onion and beansprouts. To eat Banh Xeo, you need to wrap it in either lettuce or Mustard leaf or any leaf that is big enough to make a wrapping. And dip everything in a fish sauce mixture.
So first of, you need to buy some vegetables. Here I have some mustard leaf (because I like the spicy taste it gives, but you can also buy lettuce). Some mint for flavour. Some chives to use in the pancake skin. Some beansprout for the filling. And a carrot for the dipping sauce. Everything needs to be clean properly before eating. Since we will eat this fresh, so cleaning with some drinking water added with salt always help.
For the filling, you will need some thinly sliced pork. The way I sliced here is way too thick. So I cheated by secretly cut it out even smaller before putting in. You want it thin because a thick piece will be too heavy and breaks your pancake.
You will also need some shrimps. Bánh xèo in Vietnam always eats fresh shrimp with shells on. I’m very lazy to prepare the shrimps and dislike the shells, so I cheated by buying frozen pre-shelled shrimps. It doesnt taste as good but this will do just fine for me.
The filling will also need some bean sprout and some sliced onion.
This is a secret I recently learn from Gordon Ramsay and now spill it out to you on how to chop onion with out crying. The key is not touching the roots. You can slice and cut anywhere but don’t touch the root. You will never cry again!
For the pancake batter, you will need some rice flour which can be bought at any supermarket or Asian shops. If not, you can take a cup of rice and grind it out in the nut blender. It works the same.
200ml of water, 50 ml coconut milk for flavor, 100ml of beer to make the skin crispy. 2 -3 tbsp of turmeric power for colouring. Finally add some finely chop chives.
What you are about to see is sacrilegious for Asian: cutting chives out by a scissor. I can hear my mum screaming next to me if she sees me doing this, but it is so much easier! Sorry mom!
When you mix it all together, I find it easier to use the chopsticks so it doesn’t stick at the beginning like a spoon. When things are blended together, I will use the spoon to take out any lumps. The resulted batter has to be runny, but not watery. You can also add some chilli powder to taste. Now, leave it aside.
Before jumping into the pancake, I find it best to prepare the dipping beforehand. This is because you want the dipping to enhance the flavours after a while. And more importantly, you want to eat your pancake crispy right-out-of-the-pan hot. If you leave it cold, it will not taste good and super mushy.
To make the dipping sauce, you need 5 parts water, 2 parts sugar, 2 parts fish sauce, 1 part lime juice and finely chopped garlic.
Vietnamese garlic is very small and stubborn so you cant do the shake in the bottle trick to peel it. So instead you can smash it, and the garlic will fall out easily. Once chopped, you pour in the lime juice first so it will float later. Then add the remaining ingredients. Remember to adjust the amount as needed since fish sauce brand and lime acidity are different, you may need to adjust accordingly.
The carrot will need to be shredded and dip into the fish sauce mixture. If you don’t have a shredder, just cut it into thinly slice rectangle or flower shape.
Heat up your pan with some oil. Throw in some chopped shallot and garlic for nice aroma. The chopped onion comes in. You don’t need to caramelize it, just cook it enough so it doesn’t stink when eaten. After that you throw in the pork and shrimps, seasoned to taste with salt, pepper. Set it aside.
You need to prepare these next to you cooking station:
Heat up your pan. If you have a non-stick pan, you don’t need the oil. If not put it in generously. You can start at medium heat. You want it heat up evenly.
When your pan is properly heated up, take a ladder or a soup spoon of batter pour into the pan. Quickly turn it around to cover the base of the pan in a thin layer. It is almost like see through. If the batter is too thick, the skin will not be crisp. You should hear the sizzle which is in the name of Banh Xeo. Xeo in Vietnamese is sizzle. You don’t want to keep the heat low because you want the skin to be crispy. All moisture has to evaporate in order to make it crisp.
Once the batter is in, you pour in some pork, shrimps, onion, beansprouts on one side of the pancake. Leave it there for about 2 – 3 minutes depending on how hot your pan is.
You will know when it is okay by the pancake outer rim. It should peel out on its own. When using chopsticks to hold, it should keep it shape and fold over as you wish. If it breaks, it means the batter is too wet and not cooked properly.
Once folded, transfer your pancake into a plate. With the hot pan in one hand, you are ready to pour the next onto it. Makes sure to hold your pan away from heat source and wait at least 10 seconds before pouring it in. This is because you don’t want the pan to be too hot, it cooks the batter before it has the chance to spread evenly on the base. Everything repeats. Batter, filling, wait for the outer rim to peel, flip.
You are now ready to assemble Banh Xeo!
Take a leaf, cut the banh xeo into smaller piece, add the carrot from the fish sauce mixture. Add the final touch of mint leaf. Fold it in like a gift package. Dip everything in the sauce. ENJOY!
For the batter
- 250g pancake powder
- 50ml coconut milk
- 100ml beer
- 200ml water
- 2 Tbsp turmeric powder
- Some diced up chives
- Pinch of salt
For the wrapping
- Mustard leaf or lettuce
- Fresh herbs
For the filling
- 300g shrimp
- 300g bacon
- 100g bean sprouts
- 1 onion
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the dipping sauce
- 5 Tbsp water
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp lime juice / vinegar
- 1 carrot