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Banh xeo


You'll need

160 ml vegetable oil or lard 1 onion, thinly sliced 450 gm pork belly, thinly sliced 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 2 tbsp hoisin sauce 1 tbsp fish sauce, or to taste Pinch of caster sugar 18 cooked tiger prawns, peeled 6 spring onions, thinly sliced 60 gm bean sprouts To serve: butter lettuce, Thai basil, mint and coriander   Batter 170 gm rice flour 2 tsp ground turmeric 280 ml coconut milk   Nuoc cham 80 ml (1/3 cup) fish sauce, or to taste 80 ml (1/3 cup) lime juice, or to taste 1 red birdseye chilli, thinly sliced 1 garlic clove, finely chopped 2 tbsp caster sugar

Method

  • 01
  • For batter, combine rice flour and turmeric in a bowl, then whisk in coconut milk and 280ml water. Set aside to rest (1 hour).
  • 02
  • Meanwhile, for nuoc cham, combine ingredients in a small bowl with 40ml water, whisk to combine and season to taste (it should taste sweet, salty, sour and hot).
  • 03
  • Heat 40ml oil in a wok over high heat, add onion and stir-fry until tender (1-2 minutes), add pork and garlic and stir-fry until golden (3-4 minutes), add hoisin and fish sauce and sugar, season to taste, toss to combine and set aside.
  • 04
  • Heat 20ml oil in a 22cm-diameter frying pan over high heat, add a ladleful of batter, swirl to cover pan thinly and cook until golden (3-4 minutes). Scatter one-sixth of pork mixture, prawns, spring onions and bean sprouts over half the banh xeo, fold over other half to cover filling, then slide onto serving plate and keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil, batter and filling, wiping pan with absorbent paper between batches, and serve with lettuce, herbs and nuoc cham.

Popular as both a street snack and an entrée in Vietnam, banh xeo are thin, crisp crêpes made with rice flour and stuffed with savoury ingredients. It's the sound of the batter hitting the hot oil that gives this dish (pronounced "bun sayo") its name: literally "sizzling cake". Though it's difficult to pinpoint its origins, one theory suggests it developed from the crêpe, introduced to Vietnam during the French colonisation in the 19th century.

The ingredients used in the batter, as well as the fillings, vary throughout Vietnam; the recipe we've used here is inspired by the banh xeo found in Ho Chi Minh City and the south. The batter calls for rice flour, coconut milk and turmeric; it's the turmeric which gives the distinctive hue. Traditionally, freshly extracted coconut milk would be used, and rice would be soaked and ground by hand to make the flour, but we've opted to keep things simple by using prepared ingredients here.

The thin, runny batter is ladled into a large flat crêpe pan or shallow wok greased with pork fat or vegetable oil and swirled quickly across the pan until it's very thin, crisp and golden, then the various fillings are added.

Chefs Mark Jensen and Pauline Nguyen from Sydney's Red Lantern believe banh xeo "typifies the Vietnamese obsession with fresh herbs, produce and texture" and there's no doubt freshness is key here. Banh xeo is best eaten as soon as it slides out of the pan, preferably broken into bite-sized bundles and eaten folded between butter lettuce with mustard greens, fresh leaves of coriander and Vietnamese mint. Keep things traditional by dipping it in nuoc cham - freshly prepared, of course.


At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people

Featured in

Mar 2011

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