This Banh Xeo Recipe marries savory Vietnamese crepes with shrimp, sprouts, leafy greens and loads of herbs. Translating into ‘sizzling cake’, bánh xèo is absolute perfection when dipped in nuoc cham – Vietnam’s most famous savory, sweet, sour, salty and spicy condiment!
Banh Xeo (Bánh Xèo) – Savory Vietnamese Crêpe
“Let’s get the banh xeo for sure,” he said and looked up at me from the menu for approval.
“Definitely,” I said. “You never have to twist my arm to eat a crispy crepe. Hey, how about the summer rolls with perilla and surf clam?”
“Yum,” he said.
And with those two last additions to our lengthy order, we were ready for a waiter.
The feast that night was epic. And it was memorable because the food was delicious and plentiful – and because it was the second dinner we had ever eaten together in the same city.
OK… Maybe I should explain.
Ben and I did the long distance thing for almost two years at the beginning of our relationship.
He was in New York and I was in Toronto. The first time he came to visit me in Toronto, we ate a LOT.
And It was at a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant where I first realized that food was pretty dang important to him – just like it is for me.
That night he taught me the merit of ordering your fish ball egg noodle soup with the noodles and broth separate (so your noodles don’t overcook in the hot soup).
And I taught him how to layer herbs on top of large leafy mustard greens to make a proper wrap for banh xeo – a crispy, shrimp studded rice flour pancake – (so you can dunk your crispy Vietnamese pancake in a ramekin of savory nuoc cham).
Well, fast forward more years than I’d care to admit – and we’ve just celebrated a decade of marriage!
This super crispy banh xeo recipe is not only delicious and easy to make, it’s a little foodie flashback to a meal I shared with my husband before he was even officially my boyfriend!
What is banh xeo?
Banh xeo (bánh xèo) are savory Vietnamese crepes, made of rice flour.
Typically loaded with pork belly and shrimp, these crispy pancakes get their trademark yellow tinge from turmeric, which is added to the batter before cooking.
Btw… Turmeric is sorta my favorite. Check out some other food and beauty related scenarios where I use turmeric here.
While I’m leaving pork out of this banh xeo recipe, it’s normally there. Feel free to add a bit of pork belly to your Vietnamese crispy pancake if you feel inclined.
There’s a crispy and chewy element to banh xeo that’s just so appealing from a textural standpoint.
You’ll also normally find bean sprouts, and sometimes mung beans, folded into the crepe.
Finished banh xeo are usually served with an entire garden on the side (I’ll get to that in a second).
And it’s meant to be dipped in a fragrant nuoc cham dipping sauce.
Actually, nuoc cham is used with so many dishes in Vietnamese cuisine – from bun cha to grilled meats and fish. A true multipurpose condiment if there ever was one.
From a cooking standpoint, banh xeo is crazy easy to make (and I’m excited to show you how).
And from an eating standpoint, these Vietnamese crepes are pure joy!
What’s the meaning of Banh Xeo in English?
Cool tidbit: bánh xèo translates from Vietnamese to English as ‘sizzling cake.’
It’s named in accordance with the loud sizzling sound the batter makes as it hits the pan.
And you don’t even have to stretch your imagination too far to conjure batter hitting a super hot pan making a loud, “zzzeeeeeeooooowwwww.”
Phonetically named food is a cool thing in my book!
How to make banh xeo
Even though the results seem complex and exotic, whipping up our banh xeo mix from scratch is amazingly simple.
To make the batter, just whisk rice flour, cornstarch and turmeric with a pinch of salt, a half-cup of coconut milk and about a cup and a half of water.
Make sure it’s mixed well. Then let your batter rest for at least 30 minutes.
In the meantime, you can whip up your nuoc cham (fish sauce based) dipping sauce.
Then, I like to divide my onions and shrimp into six equal piles. Yep – that’s one pile per crepe.
I like to do this so each ban xeo has equal parts deliciousness. If we just mixed everything into the batter at once, you’d likely get one seafood crepe, just loaded with shrimp – and the rest might be a little more… ahem, skimpy.
Now: in a 9 inch skillet over medium-high heat, add a bit of vegetable oil and toss in one portion of your onions and shrimp. Give it a good stir and then move the mix over to one half of the pan.
Add about a half cup of your batter to the pan and tilt the pan so the entire bottom is covered with your banh xeo mix.
We’re almost there!
Just add some bean sprouts on top of your crepe and cover the pan with a lid for around 2-3 minutes until the sprouts start to wilt.
Then, just open the lid, fold your crepe in half and plate it up.
You’re gonna love how your banh xeo has that perfectly crispy, slightly chewy mix nailed!
What’s the secret to crispy banh xeo?
Short answer: cooking on higher than normal heat.
We’re not lightly steaming these Vietnamese crepes – nor are we blitzing them over a gargantuan flame reserved for stir-frying in a wok.
What we’re going for, from a temperature standpoint, is the highest side of medium. This will deliver the heat we need to keep things crispy and crunchy – without burning the outside of our banh xeo.
Another secret to crispy savory Vietnamese crepes is using rice flour in the batter.
Ever notice how the French style baguettes you get from the banh mi shop are crispier and flakier than their French counterparts?
That’s due to the use of a mix of both rice flour and wheat flour when baking.
And while some banh xeo recipes also call for a mix of the two flours when making crispy crepes, I find that using rice flour alone really nails the texture I’m looking for.
Rice flour is the unsung hero in this banh xeo recipe (from a crispy perspective anyway, ha!).
How to eat Banh xeo
The only thing better than cooking up these crispy Vietnamese shrimp crepes is sitting down to eat them!
And, if you want to just spoon nuoc cham over the top and tear in with a fork, that’s your prerogative. There’s no shame at all in eating your banh xeo on the simple side.
However, if you’re looking for the full Monty in terms of flavor, these savory and crispy pancakes are traditionally torn up and served inside a whole host of leafy goodness.
To borrow a phrase from Chicago food etymology, banh xeo is meant to be ‘dragged through the garden’ before you put it in your mouth.
Yep, a nice palm sized piece of mustard greens (cải bẹ xanh) makes a great base. You can also use a leafy lettuce if mustard greens are tough to find.
Then, pile on perilla (AKA: shiso) leaves, mint, basil and cilantro leaves. Whoa! That’s a lotta green!
But we’re not done yet.
Now, break off a nice big hunk of your sprouts and shrimp filled banh xeo crepe and roll it up inside that amazing bed of greens you just created. Kinda like a reverse spring roll, right!?
The only thing left to do is to dunk your roll-up in nuoc cham (that delicious salty, sweet, spicy and sour dipping sauce I keep mentioning, hehe).
Check out my easy-to-make, full flavored recipe for nuoc cham here.
The resulting bite is just one of those things that quite literally has all the flavors – and most of the textures.
A verdant and crisp brightness from the greens meets a savory and chewy crunch from the seafood crepe inside. And sweet heat meets a salty and sour punch from the nuoc cham.
Is Banh Xeo French?
You could totally be forgiven for thinking banh xeo might have some French culinary influences at play.
After all, crepes just seem kind of French, right?
Furthermore, during France’s well documented and long colonial rule in Indochina, things like bread and coffee worked their way into the Vietnamese food lexicon.
Now, whether you call Vietnam’s largest metropolis Ho Chi Minh City, or still call it Saigon, these former ‘influences’ are now so ingrained in the modern Vietnamese food culture it would be impossible to separate them.
That said, banh xeo is 100% Vietnamese.
Yep – this crispy crepe, with the name that translates from Vietnamese into ‘sizzling cake’ – likely originated in central Vietnam centuries ago.
And, these days, whether you’re in Hue, Hanoi or Nha Trang, the banh xeo you eat in each respective place will likely reflect the culinary nuances drawn from the region it is served in.
With my love of travel – and my passion for food – It’d be amazing to get the opportunity to try them all!
Maybe that should be the delicious plan when we celebrate our 11th year of marriage, right!?
How about you? Where in the world would you like to go to try all the food under the sun? I’d love to hear all about your food and travel dreams in the comments section 🙂
Other simple, delicious Vietnamese recipes:
- Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)
- Vegetable Pho Broth
- Vietnamese Beef Meatballs
- Bun Cha With Shrimp
- Meatless Meatball Banh Mi
Did you like this Banh Xeo Recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!