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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Banh Xeo - vietnamese pancakes saigon-style

You are currently reading the words of a happy blogger.
When I initiated this blog a few weeks ago, I had a slight idea of what could be the interaction with my readers: Friends and relative commenting on the past happy meals we had together. So I have been quite surprise to receive e-mails from all over the world commenting, discussing, thus enriching my recipes, from people I have never heard of, and who recognize themselves in the way I live this passon fro cooking. On this english version of my blog however, I have been a little bit lazy, overwhelmed by work that is to say.
Then I received a comment rightly complaining about my lack of update of my blog. So, now that I put the seed, I feel compelled to go on and to keep posting recipes for the audience I have created.

And I tell you, as long as you keep supporting me, I will go on delivering my recipes on my blog, and believe me I have plenty of it.

I posted a poll to know what recipe you'd like to see first, and Banh Xeo came in firt position. So here is muy recipe of this famous recipe of Saigon's cuisine, the Vietnamese pancakes : Banh Xeo.

I remember when I moved to Laos in 90 just after I finished my studies, I knew the names of herbs, sauces and condiments only in Vietnamese. This make it a little more complicated to gather ingredients for my cooking. Fortunately, there was this small Don Palan's market, a wonderful small vietnamese market in the heart of the capital. And that's where I eventually updated my Lao cooking vocabulary, with a grandmother who used to cook an excellent Banh Xeo serve on this small tablet right on the sidewalk.

Cooking right on the sidewalkAnd she was the only one to serve typical veitnamese dishes, as there was plenty of other one-table-restaurant on the sidewalk. So, every single day on my way to the swimming pool, I sat in front of her and tasted the delicious Banh Xeo. I also learned from her to put Rau Ram in the banh Xeo tasting ritual.

However, the end of the story has a slightly bitter taste. I returned to Don Palan quarter three weeks ago during a brief visit to Vientiane. I was looking for a great Nuoc Mam sauce to bring back from my trip to Asia, and I naturally thought about Don Palan market. Unfortunately, as I arrived at the exact location where the market used to be, I had the very unpleasant surprise to see that the Don Palan market has simply disappeared!
But while I was digesting my bitterness on the opposite sidewalk, lazily sucking sweet juice from a frozen coconut,I suddenly had the wonderful surprise to see a grandmother stepping down from the rear of a motorcycle, and slowly building her small booth from the content of her numerous plastic bags. And I gradully recognized the same old grandmother who used to serve me my daily Banh Xeo,ten years ago!!.

What are the odds?

You can eat at the marketSo I approached her, and helped her to setup her stuff while telling her my story. Shen then explained me how the government under the pretext of modernization, had completely razed the old market and built modern concrete buildings instead. But in the process they also fixed very unreasonably high rents that none of the merchants agreed to pay. It's been five years since the new buildings have been opened, and since then, they remain empty and are now closed to the public. Of course, she felt that the whole operation was intended to harm the Vietnamese people, who have left the city for the most part, or have moved to the Nong bone area. I am not sure about her interpretation, but I remember that the same operation took place in Luang Pra Bang resulting in the exclusion of Hmong people from the main market.

It's really a pity, since this market was one of the nicest market in town.

Anyway, after this long introduction, here is my recipe for Banh Xeo

This dish is an all-time favorite in the Saigon's cooking tradition. This is a great dish to serve in the summer, where you roll turmeric colored rice pancake in lettuce leaf and then dip it in Nuoc Mam sauce. It is very easy to make, very nice and really delicious. There is also a variant from Hanoi, called Banh Khoai, which differs in the use of mushrooms and the absence of coconut milk in the dough.

Banh XeoThis picture is not mine, but is very similar to the results
I obtained with this recipe. Next time I'll cook this recipe,
I'll take a nice picture to post on the blog.

Ingredients (for 6 pancakes)

For the dough
  • 1 cup rice flour (in 300g)
  • 1/2 cup wheat starch
  • 1 1/2 bowl water and coconut juice
  • 1 tsp curry
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 stalks spring onions minced
  • 1 tbsp of peanut oil
For the stuffing
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 large onions chopped
  • 250g pork belly
  • 6 shrimps
  • 100 g yellow mungo beans
  • 200gr of fresh bean sprouts
  • Coriander
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
For service
  • Salad (lettuce or Batavia)
  • Mint leaves
  • Rau Ram (not everybody agrees to use these herbs for this dish, but give it a try, and make up your mind)
For the Nuoc Mam sauce
  • Roasted Peanuts
  • Nuoc Mam sauce
  • 4 sugar cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 quarter lime juice
  • Eventually, a crushed red pepper in a mortar
Preparation of dough
  1. Start by soaking mungo beans an hour in warm water and cook 20 minutes to steam, or until they are cooked (until beans can be crushed under a spoon).
  2. Pour the rice flour and starch in a bowl (you can also find ready-to-cook mixtures called as bot bánh xeo). Add turmeric and curry and stir.
  3. Boil 1/2 liter of water, add 400g of grated coconut powder. Keep boiling for a minute, stirring constantly. Allow to cool down for 20 minutes, then press the coconut in a sieve tofilter out the juice. This method gives the best coconut milk.
  4. The alternative would be to used coconut milk cans. Do not used the coconut milk for dessert since these are too sweet, but the one intended for cooking. If you go for the can, double the volume of the can with water.
  5. Slowly add the coconut juice in the bowl, and stir constantly until total disappearance of lumps.
  6. Add the chopped spring onions and a case of peanut oil.
  7. Let the dough rest for an hour.
Preparing the stuffing
  1. Separate the fat from the pork belly and reserved. Chop the pork without fat
  2. Slice two yellow onions
  3. Finely chop the garlic.
  4. Heat oil in a work, and add crushed garlic and onions. Once the garlic's color turns gold, add the minced pork. Add salt and pepper, stirring constantly
  5. When pork is cooked, add oyster sauce, a tbsp of Nuoc Mam. Cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes.
  6. Add the peeled and deveined shrimp and keep on heat until shrimp are cooked. Reserve ithe stufing in a bowl.
  7. In a wok, melt the pork fat until you get a nice pork oil. This oil will be used to grease the pan.
Preparation of sauce
  1. In 1/4 cup water, melt 4 pieces of sugar. Heat two minutes in the microwave or bring boil in a saucepan and turn off the heat when boiling.
  2. Press into this syrup, two cloves garlic
  3. Add the juice of one quarter of lime
  4. If you wish, add a chopped and crushed chili
  5. Add fish sauce to taste. A dozen tbsp of Nuoc Mam will do.
  6. Add two tbsp of crushed roasted peanuts
Cooking the pancakes
  1. Stir the dough to make it homogeneous
  2. In a pancake pan, grease the surface with pork's using a towel. When the pan is hot, add a ladle of dough and evenly distribute the dough all over the pan. This is done over medium heat.
  3. Place on half the crepe, fresh soybeans, a little pork, shrimp, a tbsp of mungo beans and coriander
  4. Cover the pancake and cook over medium heat. Once the pancake has taken a beautiful golden color, close the pancake by folding in half. The cooking time is approximately five minutes.
  5. Place a lettuce leaf on a plate and place the pancake on top of it.
  6. Garnish the plate with a few leaves Rau Ram, a small branch of mint and serve.
  7. On the table, we have a plate with of salad, mint leaves, Rau Ram, frsh soy beans
  1. The pancake will be cut using a knife and fork. Roll a piece of pancake in the lettuce leaf with soy beans, rau ram and/or mint.
  2. Every bite is then dipped in Nuoc Mam sauce.
And that's it.


  1. Thank you very mcuh for this recipe!!
    I think that it is amazing that you are recording these recipes. I myself am Vietnamese and my mom would always make Banh Xeo for us but when I asked her how to make it she could never really give me an exact measurement. Just keep on adding and tasting is what she would say.
    I was also really touched by your story. It's amazing how small this world is.

  2. This is now my favorite chicken recipe! It is so simple to make, & is absolutely scrumptious!!! Make sure you prepare two times as much, because you won't be able to cease eating it! Also - keep the napkins close by as it is a meal that you will get in to!
    Cheap kitchens

  3. This is awesome Story and I really love this article Its so useful to me. Thanks for making wonderful story.

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