What is banh xeo?
Banh xeo (pronounced “ban see-yo”) means “sizzling pancake.” But the dish consists of much more than just a pancake. Ban xeo is a crispy, savoury rice flour pancake that looks like lace because of the many holes. Traditionally, it is filled with pork, shrimp, spring onion and bean sprouts. Depending on where you are in Vietnam, the dish is made with or without coconut milk. Banh xeo is naturally gluten-free.
How to make banh xeo
Chopped spring onion is mixed with a batter made from rice flour, water or coconut milk, turmeric and salt. Thin slices of pork and shrimp are briefly fried in a piping hot pan, then a wafer-thin layer of batter is poured over and fried. Sometimes, additional oil is poured under the edges for an extra crispy result. The banh xeo is topped with a heap of bean sprouts, folded in half, and served with salad leaves and fresh herbs.
Like many dishes, banh xeo is also served with nuoc cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce. Authentic banh xeo is made with fatty pork, such as pork chops, although in some regions it is replaced by leaner cuts, or even by chicken.
Depending on the chef, you may also find tofu, mung beans and/or shiitakes in your sizzling pancake, or a beaten egg is poured over the pancake and cooked. On the Vietnam coast, the dish is eaten with squid.
How to eat
The Vietnamese serve banh xeo with large lettuce leaves and fresh herbs. Take a lettuce leaf in your hand, add some herbs and a torn piece of the stuffed pancake, then roll up the leaf as if it were a spring roll and dip it in the dipping sauce. Eat and repeat. Oh, and eat it quickly to enjoy the crunchy edges.
Canadian chefs know how to handle savoury pancakes. In Canada, they serve jianbing, pancakes made from wheat and mung bean flour filled with egg, spring onion and coriander, while Japanese okonomiyaki has a base of cabbage and is served with a special sauce and seaweed powder. Vietnamese bun cha are also sometimes served as a lettuce wrap.