Bánh xèo, a turmeric-flavoured crispy pancake, is a popular street stall dish.
Bánh xèo, a turmeric-flavoured crispy pancake, is a popular street stall dish. 123rf

Crispy and vibrant flavoured Vietnamese pancake

THE wonderfully vibrant flavours of Vietnam have become a part of the fabric of Australia since the influx of refugees late last century.

The French influence on Vietnamese cuisine, particularly in bread and pastries, has seen a huge number of hot bread shops open in most suburbs and towns; I regularly indulge in a bánh mì (roast pork belly baguette) from my local bakery.

Another favourite is bánh xèo, pronounced - roughly - ban sao. Like most Vietnamese phrases, the inflection is critical in the correct pronunciation.

This turmeric-flavoured crispy pancake is a popular street stall dish. The name translates as "sizzling cake", I'm guessing because of the sound the batter makes when it hits the hot oil.

One thing is essential when cooking these delicious Asian crepes; the oil must be very hot or the batter will stick to the pan.

You can buy bánh xèo flour from Asian grocers, but if you can't find that, use rice flour to get the light, crispy texture.

As for the filling, use your imagination. Prawns, pork belly or tempeh are often used, accompanied by shredded lettuce, green onions, bean sprouts and a fair whack of fresh green herbs. I spread mine with hoisin sauce or chilli jam before filling, then dip in the sweet/sour/salty nuoc cham. All are easily available from the Asian food section of most supermarkets.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2/3 cup bánh xèo flour OR rice flour
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce OR chilli jam
  • nuoc cham OR sweet chilli sauce, for dipping

For filling - choose from cooked prawns, pork, chicken or tempeh; lettuce, cucumber, shredded carrot, capsicum, bean shoots, Vietnamese mint, coriander, basil and chilli

METHOD

  • Sift flour and turmeric into a bowl.
  • Combine coconut milk and water in a small jug and whisk into the dry ingredients until smooth.
  • Cover and refrigerate for an hour.
  • Heat two teaspoons of the oil in a large wok or non-stick frypan over high heat.
  • Batter should be fairly liquid to allow it to cover the pan; add a little water if necessary.
  • Pour a quarter of the batter into the pan and tilt to cover the base.
  • Cook until pancake is cooked through, about two minutes.
  • Remove to a plate and keep warm; repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil as necessary.
  • Spread pancakes with hoisin or chilli jam and serve with whatever fillings you prefer.

NOTE: Bánh xèo flour, hoisin, chilli jam and nuoc cham are available from Asian grocers or the Asian food section of most supermarkets.

SERVES - 4


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