Vietnamese Pancake with Shrimp and Pork – Bánh xèo
“A spoonful of rice for the ancestors, a spoonful of rice for the living and a spoonful of rice for the animals”
After leaving the lawless and congested streets of the Old Quarter in Vietnam’s Capital of Hanoi, I ventured by overnight train to Hue in Central Vietnam, which was Vietnam’s Imperial Capital from 1802 and 1945.
Unfortunately upon arrival in Hue and due to the “Tet” holiday, which is celebrated for about eight days, almost the entire city had shut their shops to celebrate this holiday.
I could not convince anyone to teach me the two local specialties of Hue: Bún bò Huế (Bun=Vermicelli Rice Noodles, Bo=Beef and Hue=is the city), which is a noodle soup and Cơm Hến (Com=Rice, Hen=Clams), which is made with rice and baby clams.
So, I booked the next best option, a private food tour. The food tour was led by “Ms.Lien” the founder and guide of “I Love Hue Tour.”
The tour consisted of several hours and countless street eats, by this very enthusiastic and passionate recent college graduate.
It was a great introduction to the Imperial Cuisine of Hue, which included “Banh Beo,” tiny rice flour cakes topped with shrimp and pork, “Banh Khoai,” fried rice flour pancakes stuffed with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts (which is similar to Bánh xèo).
The tour also included dishes I had previously tried in other cities, prior to visiting Hue. However, these same dishes were prepared slightly different given the location and diversity of ingredients available throughout the three vastly different regions and climates in Vietnam.
“Ms.Lien,” is very passionate about Vietnam, Hue and its cuisine. If you are ever in Hue, I definitely recommend her food tour, as she takes you to local hidden gems throughout the city.
After my visit to the “Imperial Capital” of Hue, I went south by bus to the “Ancient City” of Hoi An the “Culinary Epicenter of Vietnam,” as I like to fondly call it.
Hoi An is a picturesque town surrounded by the “Thu Bồn River,” French colonial architecture, cobblestone streets lined with multi-colored lanterns, overflowing with bicycles and tourists.
My visit to Hoi An was for two reasons: one – to learn about the local cuisine, which includes “White Rose” (Banh Bao Vac) a translucent shrimp dumpling made with rice flour, folded in the shape of a rose.
And “Cao lầu,” noodles only made in Hoi An, which uses water from an ancient Cham well outside the town (when the noodles are cooked they have a chewy texture), thin slices of pork, crisp fresh greens and herbs, deep-fried squares of Cao lầu dough for texture, bean sprouts, a splash of broth, all served with sweet and hot chili jam and lime.
And two – to meet my friend Kim, who would join me for two weeks on my journey through Vietnam.
Hoi An is a charming city, which could very easily be a destination in itself. One recommended attraction is “Mỹ Sơn” Hindu Temples. The temples were built between the 4th and the 14th century AD, but were partially destroyed during the Vietnam war, by US bombings.
What remains of the temples after the bombings is still worth a visit. However, skip visiting Mỹ Sơn by a big package tour company selling their tours. Instead, hire a motorbike for 5 dollars, wake up around 5:30am and make the hour and a half drive to the temples yourself. And you will be rewarded with deserted jungle laden pathways leading to the ruins, birds chirping in the misty dawn air and picture perfect photos.
During my stay in Hoi An and prior to Kim’s arrival I had taken several cooking classes. However, when Kim arrived we took a cooking class together. We took a private cooking class at “Gioan Cookery,” which I highly recommend.
You can request four specific dishes or they can provide a list of dishes for you to select from. Also, Included in the class is a local market tour, which provides an overview of the Vietnamese ingredients used for making the recipes.
After our arrival and after our market tour we began making the first of the four dishes I had requested to make, Bánh xèo. Bánh xèo is a quintessential Vietnamese dish, much like Pho and Banh Mi.
It is almost always on a menu at a Vietnamese restaurant. It is basically a savory pancake made with rice flour, shrimp, pork and bean sprouts. It is served with fresh greens, fresh herbs and a dipping sauce.
After making the pancake you can eat it two ways: The first way is to fold it over and dig in with a knife and fork or lay a piece of rice paper on a plate, a layer of greens and herbs, a piece of Bánh xèo and roll it up (see photo below), dip it into the sauce and savor every crispy bite.
This recipe is so easy to make, If you can make pancakes, you can make this recipe. All ingredients are accessible from any market. The rice flour can be purchased at most supermarkets or Asian markets.
This is an appetizer, but can be a main course. I have had many versions of Bánh xèo during my visit in Vietnam and one included coconut milk. So, coconut milk can be substituted for the water or added in addition.
Now I give you Vietnamese Pancake with Shrimp and Pork – Bánh xèo. Enjoy.
- Pancake Batter
- 4 Tablespoons rice flour
- 2 Teaspoons turmeric powder
- 8 Tablespoons water
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons coconut milk (optional)
- 1 Cup bean sprouts
- 4 Tablespoons oil
- 8 Medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut lengthwise in half
- 8 Slices of pork
- 1 Bunch of lettuce
- 1 Bunch mint sprigs
- 1 Bunch basil
- Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce
- ½ Tablespoon lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce (or substitute soy sauce)
- 2 Cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Thai chili, minced
- Pancake batter: Combine rice flour, turmeric, salt and water (and coconut milk, if using) in a bowl. Whisk until smooth, set aside for 10 minutes (or refrigerate up to 8 hours).
- To cook the pancake: Heat oil in a 10" nonstick pan over medium high heat. Place the shrimp and pork in the pan and cook until shrimp turns pink.
- Stir the batter and pour over the pork and shrimp. Place bean sprouts over pancake. Cook for 1 minute. Cover the pan, reduce heat to medium, and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Increase heat to medium high and uncover the pan. Continue cooking, uncovered, for 5 minutes, until pancake is brown and crispy on the bottom.
- Using a spatula, gently fold over the pancake. Remove from the pan.
- To make Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce: Combine the lime juice and sugar, stir until dissolved. Add fish sauce (or soy sauce), garlic and chilies.
- Taste, and add more sugar, lime juice and/or fish sauce to adjust to your preference.
- To serve: Place lettuce leaves, mint and basil on a plate. Serve with pancake and dipping sauce.