Bánh xèo – the unique pancake of Vietnamese cuisine

Bánh xèo [ɓǎɲ sɛ̂w], literally “sizzling cake”, named for the loud sizzling sound it makes when the rice batter is poured into the hot skillet[1][2] is a Vietnamese savory fried pancake made of rice flour, water, turmeric powder, stuffed with slivers of fatty pork, shrimp, diced green onion, and bean sprouts.

Bánh xèo – also known as crispy Vietnamese pancake, crepe or sizzling cake – is a famous street food which is widely believed to originate from France during its occupation of Vietnam. The word xèo depicts the sizzling sound when pouring the rice batter into the hot skillet.

This “Vietnamese pancake” has a yellow outer layer and is filled with boiled pork strips, shrimp, bean sprouts and spring onion. Though some people might prefer to use chopsticks to directly eat bánh xèo, the best way to enjoy it is eating with your hands. First, take a piece of bánh xèo and put it on the rice paper. Add fresh vegetables that are always served with the dish (there’re a lot of vegetables to choose, but lettuce, Vietnamese perilla, basil and bean sprouts are the most common) and roll them tightly. With each bite, don’t forget to dip the roll into the sauce.

Like the salad roll, the “banh xeo” is a do-it-yourself dish that involves the messy but delicious process of wrapping the crepe in lettuce with cilantro and basil. Though the filling might fall out on your table, you will be completely lost in the crispy, warm combination of lettuce and crepe, and the attentive staff will happily clean up after you.

I am sure that right after the first bite, the impressive taste of crunchy crust, savoury fillings, sweet and sour dipping sauce will definitely make you fall in love with this delicacy. Besides, the sauce is a perfect blend of spices (including fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, garlic and chilli), while the herbs help eliminate the greasy taste.

Different styles of “banh xeo”

“Banh xeo” is prepared differently throughout the country. Each region across this S-shaped country has its own unique ingredients and flavours to make bánh xèo become one of its specialities. Tourists traveling about in Vietnam are sure to encounter a different recipe, and sometimes even a different name, for “banh xeo” depending on which region and province they are visiting.

These are a pale yellow spicey Vietnamese style crepe. One piece on the bottom, and another on top encase what is usually a salad consisting of been sprouts, prawns, boiled pork, taro and carrot. Drenched in fish sauce, and you have a deliciously messy slice of fine pleasure. The dish is round, and you cut it into slices, like a pizza, so it resembles a triangle on the main platter, but usually by the time it arrives on your plate, it could resemble anything really. Perhaps because of those differences, not only Vietnamese people but also foreigners may find it hard to resist the attraction of a crispy, messy but colourful combination all consisted in bánh xèo.

As for Hanoi, the preparations of bánh xèo are similar to those in the south, but include special fillings like slices of Indian taro and green mango.

In the Southern region, the “banh xeo” is the size of a large dish and yellow in color due to the employment of turmeric powder. The Southern people always add coconut milk to the rice flour to make the crepe extra delicious. The crepe is stuffed with bean sprouts, mung beans, shrimp and pork. A sweet and sour fish sauce and fresh vegetables are used as accompaniments.

In the Central region, “banh xeo” cooks make a smaller crepe that is white in color. In Hue, the crepes are called “banh khoai”, which is similar to “banh xeo”, but smaller in size and stuffed with fennel, sour star fruit, green banana and a thick soy sauce.

In addition to selling the crepes to patrons, vendors also prepare them en masse for birthday parties and festivals. Northern preparations of “banh xeo” are similar to the ones down south, but include special fillings like slices of Indian taro and manioc. In some regions, “banh xeo” is prepared thick, but Southern crepes are characteristically thin, crispy and served fresh out of the frying pan. The secret to extra-thin crepes is a deep frying pan and a quick wrist to coat the frying pan with the batter before it starts to set.

Addresses

Bánh xèo Đội Cấn – 166B Đội Cấn Street, Ba Đình District

Bánh xèo Hàng Bồ – 22 Hàng Bồ Street, Hoàn Kiếm District

Bánh xèo Nguyễn Công Trứ – Nguyễn Công Trứ market, Hai Bà Trưng District

Ngon Restaurant

Let explore Hanoi food with Hanoi Street Food Tour

In addition, To enjoy the most beautiful sightseeings in Vietnam by your eyes, you can see some itineraries below Halong Bay CruisesHanoi TourVietnam ToursSapa ToursPackage Tours or book a private car to discover where ever you want to enjoy the Vietnamese taste.

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