Banh Xeo

Banh Xeo
There was only one real reason my husband and I travelled to Vietnam three years ago.  As it turns out the people were so lovely and welcoming, the sight of millions of cycles whizzing past you in Hanoi as you fear for your life was exhilarating and the beauty of Halong Bay was breathtaking.  But we went for the food.

The vivacity and balance of flavours used in Vietnamese cooking is wonderful. MSG is nowhere to be seen and salads, grills and gluten free ingredients mean that not only is it delicious but healthy too and it’s brilliant that it is getting more and more recognition. A few years ago there were only a couple of Vietnamese cookbooks to choose from on Amazon and now there are bunches, all offering different things.  A new fancypants Vietnamese called House of Ho has also just opened in Soho from renowned chef Bobby Chinn.  When we visited we had the pleasure of chatting with Bobby Chinn himself who said there was absolutely no contest when he was deciding where to open his first restaurant outside of Vietnam.  Yay London!

Banh Xeo

 

I love a good Banh Xeo and have eaten them in many a restaurant up and down Kingsland Road.  The best one I have ever tasted though was in Hoi An but that’s a bit far every time I have a craving.  I love these pancakes so much and have tried and tried to get them as good as the ones I had in Vietnam.

Pork and Prawn filling for Banh Xeo
Now, I’m not saying I’ve cracked it as it’s been a while since my trip so my memory is a little hazy but these pancakes are definitely the best I’ve had in London.  They hold together excellently, they are crisp, they are stuffed with juicy pork and tiny fried prawns and I serve them with a plentiful amount of crunchy lettuce leaves which are used to parcel up the pancake.  Some of my messiest meals in restaurants have been to do with trying to eat this pancake, as it has fallen apart on the way to my mouth due to soggy batter and the pitiful amount of lettuce given has not been enough to hold it together.  That’s the best thing about cooking at home.  You cook the dish you want exactly the way you want it.
Iceberg right ahead
Fish Sauce

When we visited Phú Quốc we tried to bring some of the ubiquitous fish sauce they sell there back with us but we were told it was illegal to carry it on the plane and they don’t export it at all.  I was thrilled then to see that Sous Chef now stock it and immediately ordered myself a bottle, it is really the best fish sauce you can get and makes this Nuoc Cham dipping sauce so special.  You don’t have to use Vietnamese fish sauce if you can’t get hold of it but it’s a much more subtle taste than Thai fish sauce so dial it back a bit if you are substituting.

Nuoc Cham

For my batter I added soda water to really get a crisp on these pancakes which can have a tendency to get a bit soggy due to the thickness of the coconut milk.  The brand I used was especially thick so I ended up adding quite a lot of extra soda water into the mix to get the right consistency but it really depends what brand you are using.  These pancakes need to be eaten straightaway as they don’t weather well as they cool.  A great excuse for assembling everything you need around the kitchen, fill up those pancakes and dip them as you go.  Nothing like supper at the stove.

Banh Xeo3

Banh Xeo

serves about 4

Pork and Prawn Filling

1 tbsp olive oil
12 spring onions, halved lengthways
250g leftover roast pork, chopped small
200g cooked small prawns
2 tsp 5 spice powder
3 handfuls of beansprouts
A handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
A handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped

  1. In a large pan heat the olive oil.
  2. Add the spring onions, the pork and the 5 spice powder and fry gently for a 3-4 mins.
  3. Add the prawns, beansprouts and herbs, mix together and fry for a couple of mins until the prawns are heated through.
  4. Remove from heat and serve inside the crepes.

Nuoc Cham

2½ tbsp lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 tbsp sugar
60ml water
2 tbsp Vietnamese fish sauce
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ red chilli, seeds removed and chopped

Mix all the ingredients together and set aside until the crepes are ready.

Pancakes
Recipe adapted from Plenty by Ottolenghi

200g rice flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
300ml coconut milk
150 – 250ml soda water
1 tbsp oil
Iceberg lettuce, each leaf removed individually for wrapping
Extra chilli, fresh mint and coriander to serve

  1. Mix together the rice flour, egg, salt and turmeric into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the coconut milk and 150ml of the soda water until completely combined.
  3. Gradually pour the coconut milk mixture into the rice flour mixture until it forms a very smooth and light batter, about the consistency of single cream. If the mixture is too thick add more soda water.
  4. Heat a frying pan with 1 tbsp oil, when hot pour in about ½ ladle of batter. You want to pour the batter into a thin layer so start pouring carefully into the middle of the pan, then move the ladle around in a circular motion as you pour out the batter, increasing the circle of batter in the pan. Don’t worry if there are a few holes in the batter, it just means it will be crispier.
  5. Bubbles will immediately form in the batter, leave for the heat to do its work for a few minutes, the batter is quite resilient and won’t burn easily. Wait until the edges of the batter are curled up, then flip carefully over with a metal spatula. The bottom of the crepe should just be turning golden brown.
  6. Cook for 2-3 mins on the reverse side until it is also just turning golden brown.
  7. Remove from the heat, pile the filling onto half of the crepe then fold over on itself to serve.
  8. Let everyone cut their own crepes in half, wrap into a large lettuce leaf, adding more fresh mint and coriander and a bit of chilli if you like. Dip with glee into the nuoc cham. And repeat.

Comments

  1. Luke Hartley says:

    YUM!

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