[Bahn Xeo, Banh Seo, or Banh Sao]
Guest Contributor: Nick Medhurst of Great British Chefs Asia
The world first really encountered Vietnamese food with Pho introduced into the US in the aftermath of the Vietnam war. In the 80s through to the 90s Pho shops began springing up in the US, Canada and Australia until it became the world wide popular dish it is now. h
Then came Ban Me, the super filled Vietnamese sandwich. Salad, meat and pate in one extra light, French derived, Vietnamese bread. Crispy, full of flavours, an incredible brunch snack.
Now we come to Banh Xao [sizzling cake] relatively unknown and underrated outside of Vietnam, it’s my favourite Vietnamese dish. My mother in law always cooked it for me when my wife and I went back to Vung Tau. For me a delicious end of day snack, all chefs will tell you nothing beats an end of day snack. Wind down and relax with a beer.
Banh Xao, traditionally central Vietnamese was not really popular in Saigon until the 80s being brought in with workers from central Vietnam. My father in law says it dates back to before his great grandfather. The further south you go, the bigger the banh xao gets. In Can Tho, Bien Hoa and Saigon, giant crepes packed with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and comes with an accompanying plate of herbs and fresh greens. Accompanied by a dip, you can make your own as fish sauce does not appeal to everyone. I can suggest Thai chilli sauce, soy with a little garlic and lime juice or a diluted oyster sauce with chopped spring onions and garlic.
These days there are many versions of the dish, experiment and make your own. Use tofu instead of meat and fish to give a vegetarian/vegan dish. Try BBQ’d rare beef with a chipotle dip. The variations are endless.
The next step is to try banh xeo nhat ban.
THE PANCAKE MIX
· 220g (1 1/4 cups) rice flour.
· 2 tablespoons cornflour.
· 1 x 400ml can coconut milk.
· 310ml (1 1/4 cups) iced water.
· 1 teaspoon ground turmeric.
· 1 teaspoon sugar.
· 1/2 teaspoon salt.
· Pinch of white pepper.
· 2 tablespoons peanut oil.
· 1 brown onion, halved, cut into thin wedges.
· 300g Belly pork, thinly sliced.
· 12 cooked prawns, peeled, coarsely chopped.
· 130g (2 cups) bean sprouts, trimmed.
· Lettuce leaves of your choice, to serve.
· Fresh oriental basil to serve.
· Fresh mint leaves, to serve.
· Optional extras, thinly sliced radish, cucumber, tomato, peppers, spring onions, raw musheooms, green mango, green papaya.
NUOC CHAM SAUCE.
· 60ml (1/4 cup) fish sauce
· 60ml (1/4 cup) fresh lime juice
· 1 1/2 tablespoons water
· 1 teaspoon caster sugar
· 1 long fresh red chilli, optional, halved, deseeded, finely chopped
· 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
· Step 1
To make the nuoc cham, combine fish sauce, lime juice, water, sugar, chilli and garlic in a small bowl. Stir until sugar dissolves.
· Step 2
Stir the combined flour, coconut milk, water, turmeric, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Season with white pepper. Cover and place in the fridge for 1 hour or overnight to rest.
· Step 3
Heat a 20cm (base measurement) non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and heat until just smoking. Stir-fry the onion and pork for 5 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a plate. Wipe the pan clean.
· Step 4
Lightly brush pan with one-quarter of remaining oil. Heat over medium-high heat until smoking. Add one-quarter of the flour mixture and tilt pan, swirling batter to cover base and slightly up the side. Cook for 5 minutes or until underside is golden. Place one-quarter of pork mixture and one-quarter of the prawn on half the pancake. Top with one-quarter of bean sprouts. Fold over to enclose. Transfer to a plate and serve with lettuce, oriental basil and mint.