As the years pass by, I am slowly becoming more of a homebody. Combine this with the sleep deprivation that comes with having a child and you get Mr Anti-Social. That may sound like a bad thing, but I have enjoyed being a hermit. My only regret was that I got a little too comfortable with being comfortable and have let myself go. This was very clear when Steph and I went out for the first time in yonks and my bloody clothes didn’t fit. Of course I put it down to pure chance but after a few more outfits it was confirmed. I got fat. Or as anyone other than myself would say… fatter.
That day I spent a fair bit of time being an emotional wreck while being in a room surrounded by outfits that didn’t love me back. I told myself it would be fine, and that the main thing was for us to spend some time together. However, by then my anxiety had full control of me and I began picturing the night to pan out much like the movie Twins, where Steph was Arnold Schwarzenegger and I was freakin’ Danny Devito. Of course all these emotions were completely pointless in the end. We both had a very enjoyable night together, and I came home nearly busting every button off my shirt while Steph came home drunk as a skunk.
So what does this have to do with banh xeo? Absolutely nothing. I needed to get this off my chest so I could move on and become a functional human being.
To all those who have not had a Vietnamese banh xeo before, it is a crispy yellow crepe/pancake turnover that is stuffed with onions, pork and prawn. In South Vietnam, it is usually served with lettuce, herbs and dipping sauce. The southerners eat it much like sun choy bao where chunks of banh xeo and herbs are placed in a lettuce leaf, then wrapped up and dunked in nuoc mam cham (traditional dipping sauce). It can get pretty messy but I assure you that the taste is well worth the effort!
Traditionally, these crepes are cooked using a large wok. The advantages of this is that the banh xeo batter is able to get high on the wok to create the iconic frills on the edges of the crepes which provide most of the crunch. Unfortunately, my kitchen is not a gas stove so I use a fry pan instead of a wok.
To mimic the crispy frills in a fry pan, I had to modify the traditional cooking method slightly. Usually, people will fry one portion of onion, pork and prawn first in the pan and then add the batter on top to form the crepe. My method is to initially cook the filling ingredients and crepe separately, then combine in the end. This does 2 things:
- Pre cooking the ingredients ensures that they are safe to eat and enables you to pump the banh xeo out quicker. This is particularly important when you want to serve them fresh and have a few people waiting.
- The batter can be easily swirled high on the lips of the pan to achieve an even and thin crepe with crunchy edges. It is very hard to create the crispy frills if there are bits of pork, prawn and onion in the pan for those who have little experience. I have found a good demonstration of this technique by a street food vendor in this Youtube video at about 15 seconds in.
If you are having trouble with the “swirling the batter” technique, then cook them like you would a pancake. It is not the end of the world if they are not perfect because they will taste good regardless. But I assure you, once you do get the technique down pat then you will never go back. So go and get your SWIRL on!
Vietnamese Crispy Crepes - Banh Xeo
Banh xeo is a popular street food that is sold all over Vietnam. These thin and crispy savoury crepes are served with lettuce, herbs and nuoc mam dipping sauce. A great recipe to wow your friends for lunch or dinner.
Banh Xeo / Crepe Batter
- 250 gm rice flour
- 3 spring onions, chopped finely
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 300 gm pork belly / leaner cuts / chicken / leftovers cut into thin slices
- 300 gm prawns, deveined, peeled and cut into halves lengthways
- 1 medium brown onion, cut into thin slices
- 1 bag bean sprouts, washed
- Leftover vegetables
- Vegetable oil for frying
Nuoc Mam Dipping Sauce (recipe link in instructions)
- 2 baby cos lettuce or your choice
- 1 bunch coriander, optional
- 1 bunch Thai basil, optional
- 2 chillies, optional
Recommended but Not Required Equipment
- 1 non-stick fry pan with a diameter of 25 cm / 10 in. (Note 1)
Nuoc Mam Dipping Sauce
Make the nuoc mam dipping sauce first and then place it in the fridge. Please follow this link for the nuoc mam cham recipe.
Combine all the batter ingredients in a large bowl and whisk thoroughly. Cover with cling wrap and set aside until ready for frying.
Prep the pork, prawn, brown onion and spring onion.
In a fry pan on medium high heat, add a tablespoon of oil and sweat the brown onion for 2 minutes. Set aside in a bowl.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the fry pan and add the pork on medium high. Cook the pork until done then set aside in a bowl.
Repeat the same process with the prawns.
Place the 4 bowls containing the cooked pork, prawn, onion and batter next to your stove top.
If serving the crepes all at once, then preheat the oven to 100 C / 200 F. (Note 2)
Making the Crepes
Add a 1 tsp of oil to a fry pan on medium high and spread it out evenly. (Note 3)
Use the ladle to stir the batter and then use the 1/4 measuring cup to dip into the batter. Pour the measured batter into the ladle. (Note 4)
In one hand, hold the fry pan and tilt it away from you. Pour the batter on one side of the fry pan and swirl it around so that the batter is running around near the rims of the fry pan. Then tilt the fry pan so that the remaining batter flows into the middle. (See pictures and video demonstration)
Using your ladle, cover any holes that have formed in your banh xeo / crepe with batter.
After a minute add the onions, pork, prawns and bean sprouts on one side of the crepe and allow to cook for a further 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, check the bottom of the crepe by lifting one side up with an egg flipper. If it feels crispy and there is a tinge of brown on the crepe, then flip one side of the crepe over so that it looks like a half circle.
Serve the crepe immediately or place on a wire rack and into a preheated oven at 100 C / 200 F.
Place the washed lettuce and herbs on a plate in the middle of the table.
Give everyone a dipping bowl filled with nuoc mam cham dipping sauce. Include a teaspoon in case your guests would like to spoon the sauce in instead of dipping.
Serve the banh xeo / crepes on individual plates.
- If you are a beginner, then I strongly suggest you use a smaller fry pan with a diameter of about 25 cm or 10 in. This is because it is much easier to handle and control when swirling the batter around the pan.
- It is possible to serve all the crepes at once by storing them in the oven. However, I strongly recommend serving each crepe fresh off the stove.
- The first crepe should be a test run to practice your technique and adjust the amount of batter for the size of your pan.
- If you have re calibrated the amount of batter needed for your fry pan size through the practice run(s) then use that measurement instead.