It’s got that irresistible crispy, yet delicate, golden brown crust. And the inside of the bánh xèo is filled with delicious flavors: pork and shrimp, and sprinklings of mung bean, onions and bean sprouts.
This crowd pleaser is a hot-off-the-pan, hands-on food meant to be wrapped in veggies and dipped in a flavorful sauce. Vietnamese bánh xèo, often called Vietnamese pancakes, or Vietnamese crêpes, are great for family style dinners and you can prep the batter a night ahead of time. Lets get to sizzling!
Bánh xèo seems to be designed to be eaten as a family. The batter, filling ingredients, and veggies aren’t complicated to prepare, but they don’t make sense to be bought or made to be eaten by yourself.
You don’t just buy 1/4 pound of pork, 8 shrimps, or buy 1/4 head of lettuce. You kind of have to bump the volume to make each step worth the prep and to me, meals that are shared are a lot more fun anyway.
These crêpes take a little bit of prep time and organization, then you can just keep knocking these guys out faster than people can eat them.
What does bánh xèo mean?
I always found the name of bánh xèo interesting because the “xèo” refers to the sizzling sound it makes when you cook the batter. Its name loosely means “sizzling cake.” The sound is much more obvious when the batter hits a hot pan, but here’s some footage of one hissing from the heat (turn the sound up!):
[adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”j1q103UF” upload-date=”2020-05-14T00:00:00.000Z” name=”Sizzling Sounds of Bánh Xèo In A Hot Frying Pan” description=”The hissing, sizzling sound of Vietnamese Bánh Xèo, in a hot frying pan. This Vietnamese savory crepe filled with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts, and mung bean is aptly named!” player-type=”default” override-embed=”default”]
I’ve heard many folks refer to bánh xèo as that “Vietnamese egg dish” and it always took me a while to figure out what they were talking about, until they mention the filling has pork, shrimp, mung bean, bean sprouts and some green onion.
These crêpes are yellow and kinda look like omelettes-but! There are actually no eggs in here. It’s just turmeric powder that colors em yellow!
Using wheat and rice flour
It’s been brought to my attention that saying “wheat flour” causes much confusion on my pandan waffle recipe, so lets clarify it for this recipe too! Wheat flour is what you’ve been buying all your life to bake cookies and bread, and it’s what grocery stores simply label as “all purpose flour.” We call it wheat fluor here to differentiate from the rice flour.
Traditional bánh xèo was probably made with only rice flour and no wheat flour. If you want to go full on traditional, you can replace all of the wheat flour in the recipe with rice flour only and it will work. BUT…
Here’s why you want to use wheat flour:
- It makes the bánh xèo crispy in a different and better way in my opinion.
- It helps develop that nice browning color as it crisps up in the pan.
- And if you’re making the batter ahead of time and reheating it, the results turn out better if there’s wheat flour in it.
Troubleshooting the batter
The most common problem with the batter is that people aren’t getting it to crisp up. Here are the main things to check to help ensure crispy bánh xèo:
- Weigh your flour instead of scooping it. This ensures the recipe was followed accurately, and that extra flour wasn’t added due to compression caused by using a scooper.
- Make sure the batter is not too thick. Whether or not you already measured out flour by weight, check for its consistency. When the recipe calls for you you pour some batter into the hot pan, and you tilt it around, the batter should freely flow and not feel like a thick pancake batter. If it’s too thick, thin the batter container out with a tablespoon of water, mix, then test. Repeat if necessary.
- Adjust your cooking times. The times I added in the recipe card are estimates that work for me, but everyone’s stove is different.
- Reduce the amount of the covered cooking time step. Sometimes if this lid-covered step goes on for too long, condensation can drip back into the pan, making it more difficult to crisp the bánh xèo.
- Increase the amount of time the batter cooks in the step after the lid is removed. This final step is uncovered, so steam can escape and the batter can crisp.
- Add more oil. During the final uncovered cooking step, not having enough oil can prevent batter and pan contact. You can brush on a little more oil around the edges if you think it’s not crisping enough.
- Double check the water and coconut cream measurements. Too much coconut cream can prevent the batter from crisping.
- Replace the water with carbonated water. For an extra boost, this can help. It’s not meant to fix the other issues that should be accounted for, but it can help in some cases.
- Try a different pan. A nonstick, or carbon steel, or cast iron pan with good coats of seasoning on them should work well. I haven’t completely narrowed it down on why some pans simply fail, but would guess that the ones causing issues are ones that are too light or not transferring heat evenly.
How to eat bánh xèo
Bánh xèo is food meant to be eaten with your hands. You’ll always find a big plate of greens with a mix of herbs to go with it.
- Cut or break off a small 2-bite size piece of bánh xèo. Single bite size is too small and time-consuming.
- Wrap it in a similarly sized piece of lettuce. You can substitute green leaf lettuce for the mustard greens in a pinch since it tastes good too.
- Add a little bit of each of the herbs. Mint is the only must-have herb in this dish with cilantro and Vietnamese perilla being the other commonly used ones, which you should really try to source if you can! Adding too much can overpower each bite, but you must choose your own path.
- Sauce it up! Make some incredibly flavorful nước chấm or Vietnamese dipping sauce for the final flavoring and seasoning touches. I like spooning this on for maximum control and less chance of me dropping ingredients into the sauce.
Batter storage and freshness
If you take care of it, this batter will stay fresh for about 4 to 6 days after you make it, so you can enjoy bánh xèo all week long if you’d like!
If you simply just want to make it ahead of time and just chill in the batter for a few days that’s completely fine, must make sure it’s in an air tight container.
However, if you plan to cook some one day, and save the rest for another day keep your original container and batch of batter clean. This means, don’t put any used ladles, spoons, forks, or anything else into the batter. It will be easier if you just pour out the batter you want to use into a separate container so the original one remains untouched. Just make sure you mix the batter up a bit before dividing it so all the ingredients are incorporated first.
For the freshest bánh xèo, you gotta cook these to order! They taste waay better this way. But of course this is not always possible. If you don’t have much batter or ingredients left that would be worth storing uncooked, you can cook the crepes / pancakes, fridge it and bake them to eat on another day. Just know the results won’t be as good as hot off the pan.
This dish is always a treat to me since I rarely get to eat it. It’s also an awesome choice to cook for a group because it’s affordable. You can spend $20 for enough crêpes / pancakes to satisfy 4-5 bellies!
How do you pronounce bánh xèo?
Bánh xèo is pronounced as “ban say-oh.” Phonetic spelling will only get you close, but need to hear it spoken to get the intonation spot on.
How do you make bánh xèo from scratch?
Bánh Xèo is basically a crêpe or pancake made from a basic blend of rice flour, turmeric, and coconut cream, along with other ingredients. The filling includes shrimp, pork belly, and bean sprouts. You can learn the best technique to make these Vietnamese crepes using my recipe above.
Where can I buy rice flour?
I usually get rice flour pre-made in bags at Asian grocery stores. If that’s not an option for you, health food stores like Whole Foods carries it. As a last resort, you can make it yourself if you have a nice blender, but we’ll save that for another post.
What is bánh xèo in English?
Xèo is onomatopoeia for the sizzle sound when the batter hits the hot pan, so bánh xèo loosely translates to “sizzling cake.”
Where did bánh xèo originate?
There are two types of bánh xèo. The central Vietnam style is smaller, broken into pieces, and wrapped in a rice paper. This larger style of bánh xèo originated from southern Vietnam and can be wrapped with leafy lettuce.