What’s the Best Way to Assemble a Fresh Vietnamese Banh Xeo with Crispy Edges?

April 5, 2024

Banh Xeo is a classic Vietnamese dish that you may have seen fluttering around your favourite food blogs or enjoyed at a local Vietnamese restaurant. These savoury pancakes, rich with the flavours of batter, shrimp, pork and a medley of fresh vegetables, tucked within a crispy crepe, are a true delight to the senses. Today, we’ll delve into the heart of Vietnamese cuisine and discover the best way to assemble a fresh Banh Xeo with crispy edges, right in your own kitchen.

The Magic of the Banh Xeo Batter

The batter is the backbone of our Banh Xeo; it’s the canvas on which we paint our vibrant flavours. The batter’s composition is what gives the crepe its unique texture and colour. Traditionally, Banh Xeo batter is made with rice flour, water, coconut milk, and turmeric. The turmeric not only lends a beautiful yellow hue to the pancakes but also bestows a subtle earthy flavour.

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Start by whisking together 1 cup of rice flour, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix 1.5 cups of water and a cup of coconut milk. Gradually add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, whisking continually until you have a smooth batter.

Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes. This allows the flour to fully absorb the liquids, resulting in a pancake with a better texture. Resting the batter also helps produce a crepe that is tender on the inside yet crisply on the edges.

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The Filling: Shrimp, Pork, and All Things Nice

The filling is where you can flex your culinary creativity. However, the traditional Banh Xeo filling consists of shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts. Make sure your shrimp and pork are fresh to get the best flavours.

In a pan, heat some oil and add thinly sliced pork belly. Cook it until it’s browned and crispy. Remove it from the pan and in the same oil, add in the shrimps. Once the shrimps are pink and cooked, add back the pork. Now, add in your bean sprouts and cook for a few more minutes. Remember, the bean sprouts should remain crunchy to add a nice contrast in texture.

The Art of Cooking the Perfect Vietnamese Pancake

Now, let’s move on to the most exciting part: cooking the pancake. The goal is to have a pancake that is thin, crispy around the edges, but still slightly soft and pliable in the middle. This is where your pan and oil come into play.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat, then add a ladleful of your batter. Immediately tilt and swirl the pan to distribute the batter evenly across the surface. Add in the cooked filling and fold the pancake in half. Cook until the edges are crispy and the middle is still slightly soft.

The key to a crispy edge is to not flip the pancake. Let it cook on one side until it’s brown and crispy. This might take a couple of minutes but it’s worth the wait.

Completing the Assembly with Herbs and Sauce

Once your pancake is cooked and crispy, the next step is to add your fresh herbs and sauce. Fresh Vietnamese herbs such as mint, basil and perilla add a burst of freshness and help cut through the richness of the pancake.

For the sauce, nuoc cham is the traditional choice. This Vietnamese dipping sauce is a balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy, and it complements the Banh Xeo perfectly.

To assemble, take a crispy pancake, add your fresh herbs, drizzle some sauce, and fold it. There you have it – your perfect Banh Xeo is ready to serve and savour.

Perfect Pairings for Your Banh Xeo

In Vietnamese cuisine, Banh Xeo is often served with a side of fresh vegetables and herbs. Cucumbers, lettuce, mint, and cilantro are classic accompaniments. The freshness of these ingredients complements the richness of the pancake and the savoury filling.

For beverages, a fresh lime soda or a Vietnamese iced coffee would pair beautifully with the Banh Xeo, balancing out its rich flavours with a refreshing, cool drink.

In summary, Banh Xeo is a flexible recipe that allows for ample creativity. Each element – the batter, the filling, the cooking process, and the assembly – contributes to the final masterpiece: a delicious, crispy-edged Vietnamese pancake that is a delight to both the eyes and the palate. Enjoy the process and the product, immersing yourself in the richness of Vietnamese cuisine. With every bite, you’ll fall in love with Banh Xeo all over again.

Adding More Layers of Flavor: The Mung Beans and Fish Sauce Edition

The beauty of Banh Xeo lies in its complexity of flavours and textures. A very traditional addition to Banh Xeo is mung beans. Mung beans add a nutty taste and creamy texture, offering a delightful contrast to the crispy pancake and crunchy bean sprouts.

Start by soaking your mung beans in water for several hours, or even overnight. Drain the water and cook the beans over medium heat until they become soft and mushy. Mash the beans and mix them into your filling. The mung beans will add another layer of flavor and texture, making your Banh Xeo even more delicious.

In the realm of Vietnamese cuisine, no dish is ever complete without fish sauce. This is where nuoc cham steps in. A beautiful blend of fish sauce, lime juice, and a little sugar, nuoc cham is the perfect dipping sauce for Banh Xeo. The salty punch of the fish sauce, the tartness of the lime juice, and the subtle sweetness of the sugar come together to create a well-rounded, versatile sauce that enhances the taste of the Banh Xeo.

Conclusion: Savoring Your Masterpiece

You’ve whisked, sauteed, and assembled, and now, it’s time to take a moment to admire your Banh Xeo before diving in. With a perfectly crispy exterior, complemented by a filling of shrimp, pork belly, bean sprouts, and mung beans, your Banh Xeo is a delicious symphony of flavors and textures. Each bite offers a taste of Vietnam, with the nuttiness of the mung beans, the sweetness of the shrimp, the savoriness of the pork, and the freshness of the herbs and lettuce leaves.

Dipping your Banh Xeo into the nuoc cham sauce elevates the experience, bringing together all the elements of the dish. Enjoy alongside a refreshing lime soda or a rich Vietnamese iced coffee, and you’ve got the perfect feast at the comfort of your home.

Indeed, the journey of making Banh Xeo, from batter to plate, is an adventure in itself. The process may take some time, but every minute spent is truly worth it. The result is a delightful, hearty meal that warms the soul and satisfies the taste buds.

In closing, remember that the key to a perfect Banh Xeo lies not just in the ingredients or the technique, but in the love and joy you pour into making it. So, roll up your sleeves, fire up your stovetop, and embark on this culinary journey to create your own Banh Xeo masterpiece. Happy cooking!