Recipe: Bánh xèo – Vietnamese pancakes

There’s some debate over when this dish originated in Vietnam. Some link it to French colonialism, but others claim it’s a dish with more of a South Indian influence. Regardless, it’s absolutely delicious and seriously competes with French buckwheat galettes on my mental list of best pancakes.

It’s almost unbelievable that this recipe works so well. The banh xeo pancake batter is mainly just rice flour, coconut milk, water. No eggs! No flour!

That said, it took me a little trial and error to make the pancakes go from yummy to phenomenal, and I share all the tips in the recipe below. The pancakes are best when they’re paper thin and super crispy.

Jon’s Review: “I’m really shocked that a pancake without egg and flour can taste this good”

Ingredients:

Pancake Batter

  • About 250-300 g of rice flour (I used a little over half of a 400 g package)
  • About 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk
  • 2-3 green scallions, chopped (you can use a little more of the green part than you would normally)
  • about a teaspoon of tumeric

Other ingredients:

  • pre-cooked shrimp, tails removed (about 5 per pancake)
  • a handful of bean sprouts, blanched
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • a big pat of butter
  • for serving: vinegar and fish sauce.

To make the batter, mix about 250 g of rice flour with about 2 1/2 cups of water, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 2-3 chopped scallions and a teaspoon of tumeric. These are just estimates. You want the batter to be about the consistency of milk. Too thick, and you’ll get a gooey pancake (this was a mistake I made on the first try!).

Once the batter is ready to go, melt a big pat of butter in a non-stick pan, and add the diced onion. Saute so that the pan is coated generously with butter, and the onion is cooked. Next, add a thin layer of batter. And I mean thin! You want to have to shake the pan to get the batter to coat it thoroughly. If you’ve done this right, the batter will bubble and turn crispy (see the pictures of the “right” and the “wrong” amount of batter below). After about one minute, add the shrimp on one half of the pancake, along with the pre-cooked bean sprouts. Cook until the batter is cooked through, and turns from pastel colored to dark yellow. Then, flip half the pancake over (omelet style) and slide onto a plate. Serve with your favorite Vietnamese seasonings (I used a mix of vinegar and fish sauce, but you could also use siracha). The pancake might need a pinch of salt on top, to round everything out – you’re call.

This is based on this recipe.

As promised, here are pictures of the right and wrong ways to make these pancakes:

THE RIGHT WAY:

IMG_3722

Look at the edges – see the bubbles and the crispiness? Of course, the batter still needs to cook through.

THE WRONG WAY:

IMG_3717

See how this pancake is just a little too thick? The edges are a lot thicker. There is more batter in the middle. It won’t taste as good.

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