Vietnamese pancake (banh Xeo)

There’s a special place in my heart for Vietnamese pancakes. I can eat them in any season and really love to experiment with the fillings too. The crispy, crunchy pancake with the fresh salad and herb mix, licked by a sweet, sour and spicy nuoc cham dressing… Ohhhh the deliciousness!

People out there have all sorts of tried and true recipes and I have tried a few and have failed many cook ups. It has taken me YEARS to finally be able to consistently cook up Banh Xeo that I’m happy to serve to friends and family. Some people swear by adding beer to the batter. Some people use only rice flour, some use a mix of rice flour and cornflour. Some have a hectic combination of all sorts going on.

My recipe: I know it isn’t your traditional ‘from scratch’ recipe. You can find those out there if that helps float your boat. But for me, this one always works and it’s easy enough to do on a weeknight after work. I buy the pancake batter in a powder form at my local asian grocers. Usually only a few dollars for the pack.

These are the two brands that tend to be in my local asian grocers. One is 400g and the other is 500g. This matters to the ratio of coconut milk and water you will be adding; so take note which one you end up buying.

The instructions are on the back of both packages (in english as well) and make it very easy to follow. I like to add chopped spring onions to the batter for extra visual effect and flavour. I also always add a little more liquid than advised because I prefer a light/thin pancake and like to make it stretch out to as many serves as possible. Important note is to always use fridge cold water. Just like the tempura rule. The temperature (cold hitting hot) helps with the batter reaction it has in the hot pan when it goes in. Add rice flour if you think your batter needs more crunch or you’ve added too much water.

Add your tumeric powder (in the package it is a little sachet), approximately half a teaspoon.

PREP: Very thinly slice some onion, meat of your choice, prawns (in half down the spine) and squid (think strips). They all need to be in small bite size pieces that will cook at the same rate or easily. When I use the traditional pork belly, I steam it until cooked, let it rest and then slice it up. It then goes in as a cooked ingredient but it copes and as you may know, pork belly is always better the longer you cook it. Have all these in separate bowls ready for the pan.

  1. Heat your fry pan on the higher side of medium heat. I have found the best results with my cast iron fry pan. But any reliable pan/wok will work great.
  2. Using any oil of your choice (just not olive oils), place 3-4 tablespoons into the pan.
  3. Swirl the oil around to coat the pan.
  4. Quickly place a few pieces of each of your sliced meat, onion, prawn and squid.
  5. The pan will be spluttering at this point. Quickly stir your batter with your ladle and pour enough batter into the pan to spread across your ingredients. I tend to go for about 20cm radius banh xeo.
  6. Place a lid over the pan and watch your pancake carefully, adjusting the heat if it burns too quickly. Add more oil for a crispier and bubble crunch. Approximately 6-7 minutes for each pancake.
  7. After your pancake is easily lifting off the pan base, I like to remove the lid and let it crisp up some more for a few minutes.
  8. Fold your banh xeo in half and serve immediately for best crunch factor.
  9. Repeat steps 1-8 until you have used all of your batter and/or ingredients.
  10. Serve with NUOC CHAM, fresh lettuce, mint, Vietnamese mint, perilla and or any herbs and salad of your choice. Shredded carrot, bean sprouts and pickled carrot/daikon also go well.

NB: Some people place steamed prawns and squid inside the cooked banh xeo at serving time for a fresher texture and taste. Some people put bean sprouts on the banh xeo and steam it under a lid for one minute before folding the banh xeo and serving it. Up to you.

Good luck!

Like I said earlier, this is my cheat version with the package banh xeo powder mix. I also always have nuoc cham ready to go in my fridge as well as home grown herbs always at the ready. So this is a pretty cost effective meal which doubles as quite filling and healthy (use chicken breast for healthier meat or tofu). I’ve stuffed lots of these up in the past, but I’ve also made 12 of them for just me for dinner too. Leftovers for days. It really is about finding what works for you, your stove and your equipment.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe and give it a go yourself too. I’d love some comments on how you do it or your family tips below.


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