The French have their crepes, Canadians and Americans pancakes, the Mexicans the quesadilla, and the Chinese and Greek have … well, you get the idea. Vietnam has its own iteration called banh xeo. Banh xeo literally means ‘sizzling cake’, savoury fried pancakes made of rice flour, water and turmeric powder with slivers of fatty pork, prawns, mung beans, diced green onion and loads of bean sprouts for fillings.
Southern-style banh xeo contains coconut milk and turmeric powder. They are served wrapped in mustard leaf, lettuce leaves (which are normally the popular choice) or banh trang (rice paper) stuffed with mint leaves, basil, fish leaf and/or other herbs depending on individual preferences. Once wrapped, it’s dipped in a marinated fish sauce with shredded pickled carrots and daikon.
In central Vietnam, banh xeo is called banh khoai. It is much thicker in size, smaller in diameter and served open-faced instead of folded like the southern style. Another difference is the dipping sauce served in conjunction with the standard fish sauce. The dipping sauce consists of fermented soybean, ground pork liver and toasted peanuts.
Heading toward 54T Le Quang Sung Street in District 6, you will find a street shop called Banh Xeo Nam Chuoi Chien. It’s open from 3pm to 9pm daily. It is near to the crowded and busy area of Cho Lon (Chinatown). Banh Xeo Nam Chuoi Chien is well-known and popular among the local eateries and diners. It’s your typical local joint with metal tables, stools, fluorescent lighting and wall fans. In other words, people don’t come for the decor.
Banh xeo is fun to eat as it is meant to be shared and eaten with your hands. They are often thinly fried, crispy and are quite difficult to make. It is a learned technique to make it as thin as possible and the secret is in the batter mixture. The lettuce leaves and herbs are fresh but you’ll need to ask for extra as it’s not enough for my tastes. The average banh xeo is large enough for two. It’s good to have a few foodies to join so you can order a couple banh xeo with different fillings to share.
Besides banh xeo, they are also known for their goi cuon (summer rolls) and nem nuong (grilled pork patties). Goi cuon is served cool and can be considered an hors d’oeuvres. They’re comprised of prawn, pork, herbs, rice vermicelli and wrapped in rice paper. Both nem nuong and goi cuon are dipped into a peanut hoisin sauce.
Banh Xeo Nam Chuoi Chien
54T Le Quang Sung Street, D6
Tel: 08 39 60 37 70