Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bánh Xèo - My Favouritest Fusion

I never have an answer when asked what my favourite x is, where x can be pretty much anything. Fortunately, I have an answer to the incredibly specific question of "What is your favourite Vietnamese food?" Of course, it is a dish that goes ever so well with Nuoc Mam and it is born from fusion Vietnamese crepe known as Bánh Xèo. The word banh usually refers to anything that's cake like or, better yet, contains some sort of flour? I know that just saying banh means a cake, but saying banh mi means bread. The word xèo (se-yoh?) may sound and appear to be similar to the word xào which means fried and as you will soon see, this crepe is indeed fried. However, xèo does not mean fried. Some say it means sizzling and it does sound like the food makes when it sizzles if you speak Vietnamese "xèo xèo", right?

Photo taken by: Jeff McCrossin
Bánh Xèo is a fantastic fusion of French creperie with Vietnamese ingredients and we were lucky enough to share it with a group of our friends who were coming into town. I was quite happy to prepare this dish for other people as my Me always makes Bánh Xèo for me when I come home to visit. One of our friends in attendance was our wedding photographer and he was kind enough to take some pictures in exchange for food. Thanks Jeff, you're the man.

With respect to the texture or crispiness of Bánh Xèo, sometimes when I order it at restaurants I find that they're extra, super, deep-fried crispy. Maybe that's how they're meant to be but I am biased to my Mẹ's way of doing it: extra crispy edges and just a soft enough centre to be able to cut without  making a crunching sound. It's complicated but the softer it is, the better it can absorb the fish sauce which is probably why I love this dish so much.

nh Xèo 
Printable Recipe

Batter
1 pkg of Rice Flour
Turmeric (thekitchn suggests 1/8 tsp to every 3/4 rice flour but I didn't find it to be enough so aim for a slightly yellowish batter)
4-6 sprigs of green onions, sliced thin
1 can of coconut milk (This is what makes it taste oh so good. Sub in half regular milk.)
1-2 cups of water (Or more. The desired consistency is of a runny batter.)
Beer (Optional. If so, replace the same amount of water with beer used.)
A hometown brew for a homeland batter.
Filling (You'll have to eyeball filling to batter ratio)
Oil
Mung beans, soaked over night
Bean sprouts
Pork butt, sliced and seasoned with some salt and pepper
Onions, sliced
Uncooked shrimp, deveined and de-shelled. Sliced butterfly style down the middle. (I bought some frozen)

Accompanying Herbs/Seasoning
Cilantro, Thai basil, all your favourites.
Lots and lots of lettuce!
Nuoc Mam Pha

Preparation
Steam the mung beans for 20 minutes or until tender.

In a hot pan, add oil and onions. Add the pork and stir fry until cooked through. Set aside.

Mix all batter ingredients together in a bowl. Put a couple spoons of oil into a hot 9 inch pan with a top (Get a bowl and put some oil to add to the pan before each time you add batter). Put a few pieces of shrimp and pork into the pan.

Once the shrimp is cooked, move the meat over to one side of the pan. Now get ready with one hand on the pan and another with a ladle of batter. Pour in a ladle of batter and swirl the pan to cover the whole pan in batter. Pro Tip: My Mẹ told me that I needed to "lắc lắc" (shake shake, sounds like "lak lak") once I poured the batter in. I may have shook too hard since it sent the meat all over the place. 


Add bean sprouts and mung beans.


Cover the pan and until batter has cooked through.



Make sure none of the batter is stuck to the pan using a spatula and fold the Bánh Xèo over then cook until golden brown or desired crispiness is achieved.

Later I flip this one to get it golden brown, but the yellow is quite pretty.
Serve! 

They're certainly meant to come straight off the pan but if you're looking to have everyone eat at the same time, either have multiple pans going or warm up the oven and put them onto a baking sheet.

Minus the fact that some of them are broken, this
tray made me feel like my mom.
But wait, how do I eat this? If you're asking how I eat it, as usual, I never do anything the right way. Here are the two answers I usually give people.

Method 1: How to eat Bánh Xèo the 'right' way.

Step 1: Put some mixed fish sauce in a bowl.
Step 2:  Cut away a piece of Bánh Xèo.
Step 3: Roll it up inside a piece lettuce with some herbs of your choosing.
Step 4: Dip in fish sauce bowl.
Step 5: Ride the train to flavour country.

Method 2: How to eat Bánh Xèo for those who lack lettuce rolling skills like me.

Step 1: Cut up Bánh Xèo and put into bowl.
Step 2: Tear up lettuce and herbs and mix into bowl.
Step 3: Pour on healthy amount of fish sauce.
Step 4: Choo! Choo!

Although slightly more primitive, the second method offers a much simpler meal with the same flavours but you may not look as refined while eating it. Then again, spilling Bánh Xèo all over the table as I am prone to do while attempting method 1 isn't so refined either, now is it?

Photo taken by: Jeff McCrossin

This was my entry for July's edition of Delicious Vietnam #15 brought to you by Anh from A Food Lover's Journey and Ravenous Couple. The July edition is hosted by Lan of Angry Asian Creations.

8 comments:

  1. weren't there also photos of people enjoying it?they are proof of what an amazing job you did ;)

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  2. personally i prefer method #2, i call it the Banh Xeo salad.

    this is such a perfect summer meal, something to be made with the family in the backyard.

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  3. Looks good! It took us a long time to get banh xeo just the way our moms made it, so kudos to you! Not sure if the lắc lắc was how your mom aims for the soft center - we wanted our banh xeo to be thin and crisp throughout, so we do it with more of a twirling motion to spread out the batter and push any extra up the sides of the pan.

    Also I'd like to suggest wrapping it all up in cải đắng / mustard greens for an extra spicy kick and also include sorrels / lá chua in your herb assortments. That combination with banh xeo is as ingrained in me as rau răm with hột vịt lộn!

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  4. @Angry Asian

    Banh Xeo salad, I love it! Finally, a name I can give to my mess in a bowl.

    I agree 100% about the backyard meal! One day I hope to have one :P

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  5. @Linh Dang

    That is a very interesting suggestion that I have never heard of before. I'll definitely give it a shot.

    My Vietnamese reading is fairly poor so I'm not sure what the last combination is :(

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  6. Oh yeah, so that would be Vietnamese coriander and developed duck egg aka balut.

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  7. @Linh Dang

    Ohhh. I don't think my parents had Vietnamese Coriander when they served me my first duck egg. Maybe that's why I wasn't a big fan right away!

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  8. greattttttttttt. i 'm from viet nam. amazingly, a food of viet Nam was known by a great deal of people over the world.

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