Captivated from the moment my plate hit the table, practically radiating with aromatic herbs and the subtle, sweet scent of coconut, I was instantly hooked on banh xeo. Magical, almost mythical, it was unlike any dish I had enjoyed before, and for many years, considered it out of reach as a DIY project at home. Little did I know, anyone can make their own banh xeo with a little practice, patience, and determination.
What Is Banh Xeo and Banh Xeo Chay?
Translated as “sizzling cake”, banh xeo is a Vietnamese delicacy that’s been prized by the upper classes for centuries. Legend has it that it originated in the imperial city of Hue, where it was served to the royal court. Over time, the dish spread throughout Vietnam and became a beloved street food, becoming more accessible to people from all walks of life.
For omnivores, the filling often includes seafood like shrimp or prawns and pork of some sort. Vegetarian (chay) versions are just as popular, however, swapping meat for mushrooms and tofu. Both versions include generous amounts of bean sprouts and onions.
Tips For Success
Making banh xeo is a labor of love. The batter is made from rice flour, cornstarch, turmeric, and coconut milk, giving it a bright yellow hue and a slightly sweet flavor. It’s then mixed with beer, which adds a lightness and crispiness to the crepe.
Granted, calling it a “crepe” doesn’t quite ring true. While it may share visual similarities, it’s an entirely different textural experience. French crepes, thin pancakes that can be either sweet or savory, are soft all the way through, tender enough to forgo a knife entirely. Banh xeo, on the other hand, have a resounding crispy finish that rivals that of a lacey florentine cookie. Liberal use of oil and a gossamer thin layer of batter are the culprits, creating a perfect bite that’s both rich and light all at once.
Don’t forget to let your batter rest. While you can certainly give it a go right after whisking everything together, you’ll get much better results that are less likely to tear if you can wait.
Once stuffed and served, banh xeo is best enjoyed as finger food. Tear the filled crepe into smaller pieces and wrap them in crisp lettuce leaves for a cool, refreshing wrapper. Add fresh herbs on top and give it a quick dip in salty, sweet, sour vegan nước chấm (dipping sauce) before taking a bite. The combination of the crispy pancake, fresh lettuce, and fragrant herbs creates an ideal flavor and textural contrast.
Of course, you can also enjoy banh xeo on its own, or with rice noodles and additional vegetables. Don’t let me tell you what to do her! It’s a versatile and delicious dish that can be customized to your tastes.
Whether or not they’re the perfect texture, I promise you’ll have a delicious meal on your hands. Most importantly, don’t be intimidated like I was, depriving yourself of such a wonderful homemade meal for so long. Making banh xeo at home is a wonderful way to experience Vietnamese cuisine and connect with its rich cultural history. As long as you’re willing to try, there are no wrong answers.
Banh Xeo Chay:
- 1 Cup White Rice Flour
- 1/4 Cup Cornstarch
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Turmeric
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 1/2 Cups Lager Beer
- 1/2 Cup Full-Fat Coconut Milk
- 1/2 Cup Water
- Coconut Oil, As Needed for Frying
- 2 Tablespoon Coconut Oil, Divided
- 8 Ounces Extra-Firm Tofu, Drained and Cut Into 1/4-Inch Slices
- 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
- 1/2 Cup White Onion, Sliced
- 1/2 Cup Cremini Mushrooms, Sliced
- 1 Cup Mung Bean Sprouts
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
Nước Chấm Chay:
- 1/2 Cup Mushroom Stock
- 1/4 Cup Vegan Fish Sauce or Liquid Aminos
- 1/4 Cup Lime Juice
- 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1 - 2 Bird's Eye Chiles, Minced
- Crisp Lettuce Leaves
- Fresh Cilantro and/or Mint
- In a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour, cornstarch, turmeric, and salt until well combined. Continue to whisk while slowly pouring in the beer, coconut milk, and water until the mixture is smooth and free of lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 - 8 hours.
- You can either make the filling now and reheat it when you're ready to eat, or prepare it right before making the crepes. To do so, first drizzle the soy sauce over the tofu in a medium bowl and toss with cornstarch to coat. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once melted, add the mushrooms, onion, and bean sprouts and cook, stirring often, until tender and lightly browned; 5 – 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to another medium bowl.
- Return the skillet to the stove and add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil. Increase the heat to high, add tofu mixture, and spread out the pieces in a single layer. Let cook, undisturbed, until the tofu is browned on the bottom; 2 - 3 minutes. Flip the pieces over and continue to cook until the second side is browned; 1 - 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and toss with the cooked vegetables to combine.
- For the nước chấm, combine all ingredients together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring periodically, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently for 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Let cool before transferring to a heat-safe container and storing in the fridge.
- When you're ready to make the crepes, set a non-stick skillet or crepe pan over medium-high heat. Add about 1 - 2 teaspoons of coconut oil to the pan and swirl to coat.
- Stir the prepared batter when and add 1/2 cup into the pan, swirling the pan to spread the batter evenly and completely cover the bottom. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes, until the edges of the pancake start to lift off the pan and the bottom is golden brown. Spoon a scant 1/4 of the filling onto one side of the pancake and fold the other half over to form a half-moon shape. Slide the pancake onto a serving plate and repeat with the remaining batter and filling.
- Serve with lettuce leaves, cilantro and/or mint, and chilled nước chấm chay on the side.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 401Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 1507mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 3gSugar: 13gProtein: 11g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.