Sizzle, the sound food makes when you add it to a hot pan. That is what Xèo translates to in English - Sizzle, or in this case, the sound the batter makes when it hits the smoking hot skillet. Bánh translates to cake; Bánh Xèo = Cake Sizzle or Sizzling Cake if you want to Romanize it.
Depending on which area of Vietnam (North, Central, or South) you’re visiting, the varieties of Bánh Xèo will differ. You can find it in restaurants and very common as street food that won’t break the bank.
You’re probably wondering if Bánh Xèo is so familiar and delicious, why have you - a foodie, a lover of all food - not heard of it? When most people think of Vietnamese food, they think of Pho and Banh Mi. While both are amazing and two of my favourites, there is a plethora of Vietnamese food that would blow away your pallets.
Though yes influenced by colonialism (French), Vietnamese cuisine is famous for its use of flavours and complementary textures and freshness ingredients. There’s a reason why your hot bowl of Pho is served with cold, crisp vegetables on the side. Vietnamese cooking always includes elements of salty, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy and textures that provide crunch and freshness. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I don’t like Vietnamese food”. Though we have to clear up one thing, Bánh Xèo is 100% Vietnamese - not influenced by the French. Back to the Bánh Xèo.
Lien and I grew up eating this savoury pancake/crepe dish on special occasions. My mom added mung beans to her dish, and I always have the good intentions to add it to mine as well, but never remember to soak them ahead of time. I think it tastes better without - Sorry, Mom!
The rest of the ingredients are still the same; however, sometimes, the accompanying herbs and side dishes differ based upon what I can find in my local stores.
Warning… Bánh Xèo isn’t a dish meant to be eaten alone. The recipe makes around 10 pancakes. I can eat two of these bad boys by myself if I’m starving. They are best eaten fresh; you can eat the pancakes the next day, but the Bánh Xèo itself won’t be crispy.
Serving Note: You must serve this with Nuoc Cham (a fish sauce-based condiment); that’s the only thing I’ll say you can’t deviate from if you don’t want to use shrimp, cool beans. But if you try and eat this with soy sauce or ketchup, we will need to have words. I’ll include a recipe for you.
Cool fact: If you’re eating Gluten Free and Dairy Free, this pancake recipe is for you!
For the batter
450 grams or 2 cups + ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon cups cup rice flour
50 grams or ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon potato or tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder (more if you want it super yellow)
400 ml can of coconut cream (not coconut milk)
250 ml of soda water + more if you need it thin out the batter
2 scallion thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced into half-moon shapes
16 oz pork belly, thinly sliced
16 oz shrimps, peeled and deveined
2 cups bean sprouts
Nonstick frying pan with lid
Oil (neutral like vegetable or canola)
Nuoc Cham (Dipping Sauce)
1 cup of water
6 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 long red chilli, finely chopped (One seeded, one deseeded)
3 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
Green lettuce, or red lettuce
Perilla (shiso leaves)
Make your dipping sauce first. Combine, stir to dissolve the sugar, place it into a jar and put it in the fridge.
Combine and mix your dry ingredients. Then add your coconut cream (make sure you shake the can) and your soda water. Stir the ingredients together. If your mixture is too thick, add your water slowly. You want the batter to be thin and runny. If the batter is too thick, add more water. Add your sliced scallions, stir, cover, and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. While your batter is resting, prep the rest of your ingredients.
Frying your Bánh Xèo.
When it’s time to fry your Bánh Xèo, heat your frying pan on medium heat. Make sure it’s HOT. Fry your meat, then shrimp and onions. Stir your batter with your ladle and ladle in enough batter until it covers the surface of your pan. Don’t add too much, or your Bánh Xèo will be too thick, add your bean sprouts. Pop the lid on your frying pan and cook for a minute and a half on medium heat.
Take the lid off the pan, and drizzle a small amount of oil around the edges of your Bánh Xèo, and cook for an additional minute.
Fold the Bánh Xèo over, making sure your Bánh Xèo is crispy. I like mine extra crispy, so I let mine cook for an additional minute.
Transfer to a plate, and start on your next pancake! Enjoy with the herbs of your choice.
How to eat:
Break off a piece of the Bánh Xèo, place it in the middle of your lettuce leaf, add whatever fresh herbs an accompaniments you want, then dip your rolled Bánh Xèo into your sauce; shove into your mouth and be amazed!
This time, I served it with lettuce, cucumbers, and chives. I didn’t want to make a run to the store for all the herbs (you know … pandemic).
My lovely friend Carla and her husband Jeff tested the recipe for me and gave it two thumbs up! Looking forward to Jeff making his own and sharing the results with us :)