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.
Kalua pork isn’t just an entree; it’s a whole lifestyle. One of the earliest native Hawaiian foods recorded in the annals of history, it’s been a staple of the culture for thousands of years. It was, and still is, a dish of celebration, a momentous event in and of itself, to be reserved for only the most joyous occasions. Since the traditional approach could easily take all day, it’s not an undertaking for last-minute parties or spur of the moment cravings.
Vegan kalua pork is a whole different story.
What Is Traditional Kalua Pork?
The term kālua in Hawaiian means “to cook in an underground oven.” This is a complicated and time-consuming process, which begins by starting a fire at the bottom of a large pit using koa or kiawe wood. Porous lava rocks are then added like coals and heated for several hours. The hot rocks are then spread out at the base of the pit and covered with banana leaves and ti leaves. A whole pig is then placed on top, covered with additional leaves to trap the steam inside, and finally covered in dirt to seal the entire pit. After 6 to 12 hours, the meat will emerge fully cooked and infused with smoky flavor.
What Makes Vegan Kalua Pork Better
Most recipes for plant-based kalua pork start with jackfruit, given its uniquely fibrous texture that shreds beautifully. Not knocking it, but jackfruit itself is pretty bland, and can be downright woody when not cooked properly. Start with Sugimoto shiitake that are guaranteed to give you a tender, meaty bite and an incredible depth of flavor, every single time.
- Ready in minutes. Bad at planning ahead? Me too! This recipe is so easy that you can whip it up in 15 minutes, from start to finish, if you have soaked shiitake ready to go.
- Hearty and healthy. High in fiber, potassium, and Vitamin D. Sugimoto Shiitake in particular have the most natural Vitamin D of any dried mushrooms on the market.
- Meatless. Naturally, by omitting the pork, you get a cholesterol-free, low-fat treat that’s still rich in Guanylate, which enhances flavors and creates a much more intense overall umami flavor.
Tips For Success
No matter what, you can’t go wrong with this brilliantly simple, quick recipe. To get the maximum enjoyment out of the process and best result, here’s what you need to know.
- Start with Sugimoto Koshin Shiitake. These particular shiitake have larger, flatter caps, which makes for a much finer shredded texture, just like pulled pork.
- Save any excess mushroom soaking water and stems for another recipe. These are great in all sorts of soups and stews!
- Use a sharp knife to make fine shredded ribbons. Take your time; this step is key for getting the right mouthfeel.
What To Serve With Meatless Kalua Pork
All you really need to enjoy this entree is a fork, but like any other simple dish, it only gets better with accompaniments and garnishes.
- Slap some vegan kalua pork on a soft slider bun or vegan Hawaiian roll and top it off with a crisp, crunchy slaw. This is the ultimate backyard BBQ or potluck offering, sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.
- Dress it up as a typical Hawaiian plate lunch, with a generous scoop of hot white rice and creamy mac salad. Use your favorite pasta salad recipe or toss together cooked macaroni noodles and vegan mayo with a pinch of shredded carrots, minced onion, and relish, to taste.
- To drink, you can’t go wrong with pure coconut water, or go all-out with a cherimoya lava flow.
For a proper luau, you can go all-out and serve an abundant spread of other Hawaiian staples, such as poke, chicken long rice, and lomi lomi. Don’t forget the mochi brownies for dessert!
Q: Can I make this vegan kalua pork recipe oil-free?
A: While the oil contributes critical richness to mimic the naturally fatty pork and is very strongly recommended, you can omit it if necessary. Simply cook the shredded mushrooms with the marinade until all the liquid has been absorbed.
Q: How can I add more protein?
A: Believe it or not, Sugimoto Shiitake actually do contain protein, to the tune of 1 gram per serving, or 14 grams per package. If you’d still like to add more to your meal, consider incorporating up to one cup of shredded seitan or soy curls.
Get a taste of the Hawaiian islands from the comfort of your own home any day of the week. Create an incredible depth of savory flavor with minimal ingredients and just minutes on the clock. You’ll want to save this recipe as your new all-purpose entree for parties, weeknight dinners, or midnight munchies.
Potlucks, both big and small, have the power to bring people together like nothing else. These communal feasts allow a true fusion of cultures, uniting culinary traditions to create a symphony of flavor on every plate. Unlike your average hosted dinner party or brunch gathering, it’s not just about the individual’s dining experience, but celebrating the full collective of flavors found within the community at large.
Beyond the food itself, potlucks allow an intangible magic to develop, fostering bonds and deepening relationships. These gatherings are not confined to rigid social structures or the formality of restaurant dining. Rather, they offer an intimate setting where the boundaries between host and guest blur into insignificance. It is within this egalitarian ambiance that strangers become friends, and acquaintances transform into confidants, all while savoring the fruits of their collective labor.
With that in mind, there are no wrong answers for the perennial question: What should I bring to a potluck? From the zesty chili that sets the palate ablaze to the velvety chocolate cake that seduces the sweet tooth, each dish tells a story, far more personal and revealing than a casual conversation. If you’re stumped, though, I do have a few foolproof suggestions.
What Makes a Good Potluck Dish?
To narrow down the options, my criteria for what goes on this list is more pragmatic than visionary. It’s always best to select a dish that:
- Serves many, ideally 8 – 10 at minimum, or can be scaled up accordingly
- Travels well, no matter the distance
- Can sit at room temperature or is easy to reheat with minimal fuss
- Quick and easy to prepare, because no one wants to spend any party stuck in the kitchen
- Isn’t terribly messy to serve or eat
From snacks to desserts, here’s my cheat sheet for serving any group with style.
With the rise of plant-based alternatives comes a wealth of inspiration- And misinformation. Jackfruit has been embraced as the meat of the jungle, fulfilling that role with varying degrees of success. For every incredible pulled “pork” sandwich, there’s another platter of stringy, unidentifiable BBQ going untouched at the neighborhood cookout. If you don’t know jack about jackfruit, you’re not alone.
How To Buy Jackfruit
For the sake of savory recipes, you want to by young green (unripe) jackfruit, canned and packed in brine, not in syrup and not fresh. Fresh jackfruit is indeed sweet, as the name would imply, often enjoyed in smoothies, ice cream, pudding, and other desserts. The texture is also smooth and almost bouncy, somewhat like lychees. While delicious, this isn’t the best way to replicate a meaty experience, to say nothing of the difficulty prepping a whole jackfruit, which can weigh up to 100 pounds.
Immature jackfruit is now sometimes packaged in pouches too, sometimes sold refrigerated or alongside shelf stable meat substitutes. Aside from having less liquid, the differences are immaterial.
How To Cook With Jackfruit
Most cooks go wrong right in the beginning. Some brands have jackfruit that’s already broken down to a texture that’s “usable” right out of the package, but that doesn’t mean you should. More often than not, it’s still very tough, tinged with the residual taste of the metal can.
- For the best experience with jackfruit, take it to the stove first. After thoroughly draining the brine, add fresh water to cover and bring it to a boil. If it’s already fairly tender, you can then immediately drain and get to work. For tougher chunks of jackfruit (as seen above), give it up to 20 minutes, until it falls apart readily when prodded.
- Flavor your water to infuse the jackfruit with a meatier taste right off the bat. Add a cube of vegan bouillon flavored like chicken, beef, or pork, depending on your desired output. For general umami, mushroom stock and/or shiitake powder is always a solid choice.
- Use a potato masher for the best shredded texture. No one wants a big chunk of miscellaneous gristle in their meat; consider the same rule for plant-based products. If it’s not soft enough to mash, it’s not cooked enough to use.
Jackfruit Is Only As Flavorful As Its Sauce
Like tofu, young jackfruit is downright bland until you season it. That’s why you need to go heavy on your spices and sauces, but don’t rely on packaged solutions alone. The biggest problem I find with most pulled pork facsimiles is the cooks use prepared BBQ sauce right out of the bottle and call it a day. Add smoke, add fresh garlic, add a bit of fat, please! Put it back over the fire to give it more nuanced texture, crisping the edges for a chewier bite. You can saute it, air fry it, bake it, roast it, grill it; anything! Don’t just pretend like it’s a complete gourmet meal without putting in some work.
Jackfruit Nutrition Notes
Here’s the rub: jackfruit is not a great source of protein. Don’t call it an “alternative protein” because it’s simply not an accurate assessment. You’d get more protein eating raw broccoli. Jackfruit does have plenty of nutritional benefits to offer, though!
- Good source of potassium and Vitamin C. Feed your skin and bones with these key “beauty” vitamins.
- Cholesterol-free. An automatic advantage of swapping animal products for plants is instantly cutting cholesterol out of the picture. For anyone worried about heart health, this is one easy step that can make a big difference.
- Good source of fiber. Stay regular! Don’t forget that a healthy digestive system (AKA your microbiome) also contributes to a healthy immune system too.
Jackfruit does have an impressive amount of protein compared to many other fruits, like apples and mangoes, but it shouldn’t be considered the place to get your gains. Add other protein sources to your meal, such as tofu, beans, nuts, and seeds for a healthy balance.
What Should You Make With Jackfruit Next?
There’s no shortage of inspiration for jackfruit recipes spanning all cultures and cuisines. Today, I’d like to present a very simple introduction to the meatless beast, treating it like chicken salad, but taking away the sometimes divisive mayonnaise component.
Tossing the savory shreds instead with a light dressing of olive oil and fresh herbs, it’s a bright and simple lunchtime staple. The crisp crunch of celery adds textural contrast that holds up well over time, even when prepped ahead and stashed in a lunchbox to eat on the go. Best of all, without the overbearing creaminess of conventional chicken salad, you’re free to top it with gooey dairy-free cheese and make an excellent chicken salad melt. Crisp toasted bread holds the whole assembly together in an unfussy, unpretentious package that everyone can get behind.
Jackfruit isn’t so scary when you break down the basics. Here’s an easy way to master the art of jackfruit cookery without fail.