Bánh xèo (read: bahn SAY-oh) literally means sizzling cake; Vietnamese savoury fried pancakes made of rice flour, water, turmeric powder, stuffed with slivers of fatty pork, shrimp, diced green onion, and bean sprouts. In this case I skipped the pork.
Southern style of banh xeo contains coconut milk while certain Central region skips the turmeric powder altogether. Southern banh xeo has a larger shape and thinner crepe compare to the Central and Northern regions of Vietnam.
Due to historical contact with China, Vietnamese cuisine shares many of its characteristics with Chinese food. In the 17th century, contact with the Siam from India lead to the adoption of curry in Vietnamese cuisine. During French colonial about late 19th century, baguettes were introduced and Vietnamese created stuffing sandwich with baguettes “bánh mì”.
Many people think banh xeo is a gift from France. Actually banh xeo predate the French colonial era in Vietnam. It has more influenced from the savoury Indian pancake or crepe called dosa by the utilization of rice flour, coconut milk and turmeric which are not being used much in French cuisine.
I adapted a recipe from my Canadian foodie buddy, Seasalt with Food with a bit change by adding fish sauce, more coconut milk and reducing the water amount in banh xeo batter.
Bánh Xèo Recipe
Vietnamese Savoury Crepes
adapted from Seasalt with Food
Banh Xeo Batter
2 cups rice flour
3/4 cup coconut milk (preferably UHT coconut milk package with no sulfite added)
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce (nước mắm)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon Vietnamese style curry powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon seasalt
3 green onions, angle cut
11 oz (300 grams) medium shrimps, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cups bean sprouts (trimmed preferred)
2 tablespoons cooking oil plus extra oil for the crepe
couple drizzles of Vietnamese fish sauce (nước mắm)
1. In a large bowl whisk together the rice flour, turmeric powder, curry powder, sugar and seasalt. Add water, coconut milk, fish sauce and whisk until mixture is smooth. Strain through sieve if there are lumps. Set banh xeo batter to rest for 30 minutes.
2. Mix shrimps, onion, and couple drizzles of fish sauce together. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large wok or skillet over high heat. Toss in the shrimp mixture; saute until shrimps turn pink and add green onions. Set a side.
3. Whisk the batter well. Heat up a 25-cm or 10-inch crepe or saute pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and ladle about ½ cup of the batter and swirl pan to coat bottom evenly.
4. When the crepe begins to feel firm, drizzle another 1 tablespoon of oil around outer edge of crepe and lower heat to medium. With a soft silicone spatula gently pried and loosen from bottom of pan. Then top one side of the crepe with some shrimp mixture and bean sprouts. When bottom turns light brown and crispy, fold crepe in half to secure bean sprouts and reduce the heat to low. Continue to cook the crepe for another 2 minutes.
5. Gently remove the crepe to a serving plate. Repeat with remaining batter and ingredients.
6. Serve the crepes with lettuce, Veitnamese herbs, carrot daikon pickle and dipping sauce.