22 September 2012

Banh Xeo - Crispy Rice Pancakes

One of my favourite Vietnamese snacks is Banh Xeo - a crispy Rice flour and coconut milk pancake, filled with chewy pork and prawns, fragrant fresh herbs like Thai basil, Vietnamese mint and coriander, and crunchy beansprouts. It's served with Nuoc Cham, the classic Vietnamese sauce, wonderfully sweet and sour with a pungent hint of fish sauce and a wallop of chillies.

I learnt how to make Banh Xeo in Hoi An in Vietnam, at a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant/cooking school Morning Glory. I had a private lesson with Mrs Vy the chef and learnt so much about Vietnamese cuisine. 'Xeo' means sizzling, and that's the sound you'll hear as the pancake batter goes into the pan. Traditionally these are sliced, popped onto lettuce leaves, and smothered in herbs, before wrapping the lettuce parcel up and dipping it in the sauce.

In Washington, I went shopping in a great little suburb called Georgetown and stumbled across a fabulous Vietnamese restaurant - their Banh Xeo didn't disappoint, and reminded me of how long it had been since I made them. So here I am, replicating another dish from my trip.

My version is a little different to the traditional way of preparing Banh Xeo. I add cornflour to the rice flour to make it firmer and less likely to break up, though even if they do break they taste fabulous anyway. I also fill the pancakes with everything including the herbs and serve with the dipping sauce, rather than slice it up, pop it onto lettuce leaves and put the herbs on top.

Here's one that didn't quite turn out right, but was delicious anyway.

For those in Doha, rice powder is the same as rice flour, and Vietnamese mint is hard to come by, I occasionally find it at Megamart, but use normal mint if it's not around.

Banh Xeo with Prawns and Pork

  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornflour
  • 2 cups iced water
  • 400 mls coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • peanut oil to fry
  • 2 tablespoons mung bean paste (steamed mung beans ground to a paste with a little bit of water) optional
  • 1 cup beansprouts
  • 1/2 cup Thai basil
  • 1/2 cup Vietnamese mint leaves (normal mint is fine)
  • 1/2 cup chopped coriander
  • 300 grams pork, chopped fine and fried until crisp (I quite often use bacon)
  • 300 grams prawns, cooked and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped spring onions
  • 2 cups washed butter lettuce leaves
Nuoc Cham
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 3 tablespoon lime juice (juice of a large lime)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-2 bird’s eye chilies, cut into very fine rings
  • spring onion (optional)


To make the Nuoc Cham, mixed all of the ingredients together and stir until sugar is dissolved, set aside to cool. You can add spring onions and/or coriander once cooled.

Make the pancake batter by mixing the rice flour, cornflour, salt, pepper, tumeric, water and coconut milk with a whisk until lump free. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

To make the pancakes, have everything chopped and ready to go. Heat a teaspoon of peanut oil in a small non-stick frying pan over medium to high heat, drizzle in a small ladleful of batter and swirl to coat the base (like you would a crepe). Listen closely and you'll hear the Xeo, it should sizzle away quite merrily.

Add in the pork and prawns, and cook for a minute or two. Check the bottom of the pancake, it should be lovely and golden and the top should be almost set.

Add in the spring onions.

Closely followed by the herbs and beansprouts.

Fold over carefully, and slide onto a plate to serve.

Cut into pieces, wrap each piece in lettuce and dip in Nuoc Cham sauce.