I have yet traveled to Vietnam but I am a big fan of Vietnamese food, thanks to the Little Saigon in Orange County—the largest Vietnamese enclave outside of Vietnam and the place I shop, eat, and have cheap massages! Last weekend, my friend Chef Danhi invited me to join his Little Saigon tour. Towards to the end of the tour, he did a cooking demo of banh xeo (pronounced as banh say-oh), or Vietnamese coconut crepes with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts, a recipe that I have been wanting to learn. I volunteered to help him make a serving of banh xeo.
The next day, I went to the market and got all the ingredients and practiced further at home. While banh xeo is not that hard to make, getting the perfect shape without breaking the crepe is a skill I surely need to work on, or perhaps, I will have to acquire the pan flipping skill that would flip the banh xeo and land it on the pan instead of the kitchen floor.
According to Chef Danhi, banh xeo is a southern Vietnam recipe. Xeo means “sizzling” so it’s also known as sizzling Saigon crepes. I used vegetable oil to make my banh xeo, but traditionally, it’s made with lard. To eat, just wrap it with a lettuce leaf and herbs (Thai basil, Perilla herb, mint leaves) and then dip in nuoc cham, the ubiquitous Vietnamese dipping sauce made of fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar.
Adapted from Southeast Asian Flavors
Makes 6 ten-inch crepes
2 cups rice flour
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup water
3/4 cup canned coconut milk
3 scallions, thinly sliced on extreme angle, about 1/4 inch thick
1 cup lard or vegetable oil
1/4 lb. pork shoulder, cut into thin slices
1/4 lb. small shrimp, peeled and deveined, slices in halves lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sliced yellow onions, about 1/8 inch thick
1 to 2 medium long red chilies, sliced thinly into rings, about 1/8 inch thick
3/4 cups sliced mushrooms, 1/8 inch slices
2 cups bean sprouts (trimmed preferred)
In a large bowl whisk together the rice flour, turmeric powder and salt. Add water and coconut milk and whisk until mixture is smooth. Strain through sieve if there are lumps. Set batter to rest for 30 minutes.
Heat up a 10-inch non-stick saute pan or skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon lard/oil and then add one portion of pork, shrimp, onions, scallions, and mushrooms. Stir fry until pork and shrimp are half done, and ladle 1/2 cup of batter into pan. Swirl pan to coat bottom evenly. Add bean sprouts over half the crepe (on the right). Drizzle another 1 tablespoon of lard/oil around outer edge of crepe and lower heat to medium.
Cover pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove cover and continue to cook until edges begin to brown. Loosen crepe from bottom of pan with a soft silicon spatula (hard spatula would break the crepe). When bottom turns light brown and crispy, fold crepe to encase bean sprouts.
Places pieces of cooked banh xeo inside a lettuce leaf, dip in nuoc cham and eat immediately.
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1-2 bird’s eye chilies, cut into very fine rings
1 clove garlic, minced finely (optional)
Add fish sauce, water, sugar and lime juice into a small bowl and mix well until sugar is completely dissolved.
Add garlic and chilies and stir.
Use as tableside condiment as desired.
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