Bánh Xèo – Vietnamese Rice Flour Crepes
Bánh xèo (pronounced something like bon say-oh) is a fried Vietnamese rice flour crepe. The name is actually something of an onomatopoeia, as xèo sounds like the batter sizzling in the pan.
In appearance, this dish is a bit misleading. I am embarrassed to say that until I first made bánh xèo at home, I thought it was some kind of omelet. I watched Anthony Bourdain eat them on TV first, then I even went so far as to hunt down the same place in Saigon and eat them myself, and I was none the wiser. As it turns out, that yellow color comes entirely from turmeric in the batter, which contains no eggs. Oops.
A simple batter of rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric is quickly fried and filled with shrimp, bean sprouts, scallions, and other tasty goodies. Then “dragged through the garden” in the local parlance, meaning wrapped in lettuce and fresh herbs, and eaten with the ever-present dipping sauce, nước chấm.
1½ pounds shrimp, shelled and poached
½ yellow onion, quartered and sliced
2 cups bean sprouts
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
Herb Plate with Basil, Mint, and Cilantro
1 head of green leaf lettuce
2 tbsp fish sauce
½ cup water
2 tbsp sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp lime juice
1 thai or serrano chili
Make the batter a few hours before using it. This allows it to hydrate nicely. Simply mix the batter ingredients, cover, and allow to rest for a minimum of one hour.
To make the crepes, heat a skillet over high heat. Add a small amount of oil and pour in roughly ⅓ cup of the batter. If necessary, swirl the pan to allow the batter to spread out nice and thin. Toss the shrimp and onions in immediately.
Allow the crepe to cook until cooked through in the center. The edges should be crispy, and when folded, there should be good browned parts of the crepe. Before folding, add some bean sprouts and scallions.
The crepes should be served while still hot. To eat, tear off a piece of the crepe, add some fresh herbs from the plate, wrap it up in a piece of lettuce, and either dip in the nước chấm or drizzle some over the top.