Friday, March 08, 2013

Bánh xèo

March 2, 2013

Last Saturday was my favourite kind, spent cycling around sunny Brunswick eating delicious things, picking up some groceries and returning home to cook together and kill some zombies. Inspired by our recent visit to Fina's, we tried our hand at bánh xèo. There are recipes all over the internet for these rice flour pancakes but we wanted to start with Ottolenghi's version, even faithfully shopping around for the precise herbs and vegetables in his filling.

The filling is really about patiently shredding and picking a whole lot of fresh veg. Mint is a must and I really liked the daikon, but you could otherwise mix up the greenery to suit yourself. The sauce is a sweet and spicy delight, faintly recalling fish sauce but not all-out mimicking it. The pancake, I typically find, is the tricky part. (As an aside, I was surprised to see egg in this one as I think the restaurant versions I've eaten have been vegan.) No two of mine were quite the same, and I panicked over every flip. I think the aim with this recipe is to use medium, rather than high, heat. You want the batter to sizzle a little as it hits the pan, but then spread out smoothly and take a while to really set through before the high-stakes flipping. I preferred the pancakes that were a solid 2-3mm thick over the more crepe-y ones, they really soaked up the sauce.

Bánh xèo is a lovely summer meal, and we're having just the lovely extended summer to enjoy it in. While we chose this as a bit of a project, there's potential here to pare things back to a simple lunch - a rice flour/coconut milk batter, whatever greens are around, kecap manis, chilli and perhaps a little vinegar would just about do it.

Bánh xèo
(a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty,
also available at the Guardian)

1 large carrot
1 daikon
4 spring onions
1 green chilli
80g snow peas
15g coriander
15g Thai basil
15g mint
100g mung bean sprouts
100g enoki mushrooms

2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon kecap manis
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

200g rice flour
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
400mL can coconut milk
a splash of sunflower oil

Start with the filling. Peel then shred the carrot and daikon - Michael did this all with the vegetable peeler. Slice the spring onions. Slice the chilli and snow peas into long, thin strips. Pick the herb leaves. Set it all aside, with the sprouts and mushrooms too.

Whisk together all the sauce ingredients.

Place the rice flour, egg, salt and turmeric in a large bowl. Whisk in that egg slowly, gradually pouring in the coconut milk as you go. Keep whisking until you have a smooth batter.

Splash the sunflower oil into a non-stick frypan and bring it to medium heat. Slowly pour a quarter of the batter into the pan, allowing it to spread out into a large circle. Cook the pancake for 3-5 minutes, until it's browning a little underneath and set on top. Gently flip it over to brown the other side.

Slide the pancake onto a plate. Arrange a quarter of the filling ingredients over half of it, spoon over a tablespoon or two of the sauce, fold over the pancake into a semi circle and spoon over more sauce. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make four pancakes.


  1. I love banh xeo! I went to Vietnam in December, and I remember eating banh xeo at a streetside stall in Hue - we sat down not knowing what to expect, and the lady served up these amazing pancakes!

    1. Hi Amanda! That sounds like a lot of fun. :-)

  2. Perfect meal for this heat wave - something I have always wanted to try but I am not sure I would do the chilli garnish

  3. Johanna - yep, definitely designed for this weather! I must confess that I ended up passing much of the chilli over to Michael. :-P

  4. That looks really tasty! I've been eyeballing Ottolenghi's stuff for a while now, but it keeps getting shoved aside for my million other things to try :/

    1. AA - I know the feeling, I have hundreds of recipes bookmarked! And Ottolenghi's ones have such loooong ingredient lists.