Bánh xèo, literally “sizzling cake”, named for the loud sizzling sound it makes when the rice batter is poured into the hot skillet is a Vietnamese savoury fried pancake made of rice flour, water, turmeric powder, stuffed with slivers of fatty pork, shrimp, diced spring onion, and bean sprouts.
Varieties of Bánh xèo
Southern-style bánh xèo contains coconut milk and certain Central regions skip the turmeric powder altogether. They are eaten wrapped in mustard or lettuce leaves or banh trang wrappers, stuffed with mint leaves or basil, and then dipped in a sweet and sour diluted fish sauce. In the Central region, it is often wrapped in fresh rice paper with a sausage (nem lui) and then dipped in a special sauce which consists of fermented soy bean and sticky rice sauce, ground pork liver, ground and toasted peanut and seasonings.
The dish is also popular in Cambodian cuisine, where the dish is called បាញ់ឆែវ (most often transliterated as banh chao). It has also been introduced into Thailand where it known by two names: ขนมเบื้องญวน (khanom beuang yuan), where yuan is the Thai word for “Vietnamese”, and บั๊ญแส่ว (Ban sao).
Similarity to bánh khoái of Huế
Southern style bánh xèo are larger and thinner compared to the small pan-fried versions in the central and northern regions. In Huế, the former imperial capital, it is called bánh khoái (literally “cake fond-of”) and is served open faced instead of being folded in half. Bánh khoái is always served with the fermented soy bean sauce mentioned above. In the central region, it is considered cold weather food because of its greasiness. Therefore, most families make them from scratch only during the winter.
- 1⅔ cups rice flour
- ½ cup coconut cream
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 spring onion, thinly sliced, plus extra, to serve
- vegetable oil, to cook
- 1 cup fresh coriander leaves, plus extra, to serve
- 1 cup fresh shiso leaves , plus extra, to serve (see glossary)
- 1 cup Vietnamese mint leaves, plus extra, to serve (see glossary)
- 2 red bird’s-eye chillies, thinly sliced, plus extra, to serve
- 2 carrots, thinly shredded
- 2 cups beans sprouts, trimmed
- 24 cooked prawns, cleaned, peeled with tails intact
- chilli jam and lettuce leaves (optional), to serve (see note 1)
- Combine rice flour, coconut cream, turmeric, spring onion and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl with 2 cups water. Stir until a smooth batter forms. Cover and set aside to rest for 1 hour.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Brush with vegetable oil then add ½ cup batter, swirling pan to form a thin pancake.
- Cook for 3 minutes or until just cooked through, scatter one half of pancake with ⅛ of the herbs, chillies, carrot, bean sprouts and 3 prawns.
- Flip pancake in half to cover filling and cook for a further 30 seconds to warm through, then remove with a spatula and place on a serving plate.
- Repeat with remaining batter and filling ingredients.
- Serve with chilli jam, extra herbs, chilli, spring onion and lettuce, if desired.