Bánh Xèo is a delicious savoury, gluten free Vietnamese pancake that literally means sizzling cake, the word Xèo refers to the sizzling sound made by the batter hitting the hot pan. It’s cooked in minutes and can be filled with all manner of meat and vegetables that you fancy although traditonally, Bánh Xèo is filled with pork, prawns and some beansprouts.
The best ones I had in Vietnam were always the ones sold by street vendors, perhaps it’s the whole street food experience that I love, something I grew up with in Singapore and Malaysia, with our hawker stalls and night street markets. You tear a little piece of the pancake, grab some lettuce and dip the whole lot into some dipping sauce (nuoc cham, recipe below). Then, savour the multiple layers of flavours and sensations that come in that single mouthful! Whenever I make these at home, I always go through one before they land on the table, resistance is futile!
The picture above is of a travelling street vendor, selling all manner of foods, from fresh to cooked to dried.
These pancakes are usually made with rice flour, so, here we go, a gluten free recipe and because of the rice flour, take on a crispy texture that you can’t get get with wheat flour alone. My kids are especially fond of them extra crispy and the youngest has it without any filling, just as it is!
I might have mentioned that I have a huge collection of recipes collected on my travels, and this is one that I picked up in Vietnam, just by having it made fresh infront of me countless times! Let’s face it, all it takes is flour, water, filling – that’s it! I’ve had and made vegetarian versions as well, with just beansprouts, carrots and shiitake mushrooms. Super delicious!
If you cannot get hold of rice flour, it is extremeky easy to make at home. Just zap some unwashed, uncooked white rice grains into a coffee or spice mill and you’re all set! You could use brown rice flour, if you prefer, but to me, there is a time and place for brown and this isn’t one of them!
Season and cook all filling (apart from the beansprouts) before hand.
I’ve seen the filling cooked separately and added to the pancake as well as at the same time. I’ve given my preferred method here, precooking the filling.
- 300g/2 cups rice flour
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp salt
- half tsp white sugar
- pinch white pepper (optional)
- 200ml coconut milk
- 300ml water
- 3 spring onions, finely sliced
- peanut or vegetable oil as needed for cooking the pancakes
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 shallot, sliced thinly
- 200g chicken, chopped in tiny bitesize pieces
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 100g prawns/shrimps, peeled and cleaned
- 1 handful shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
- 2 handfuls beansprouts
- Lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh coriander and mint are just some ideas
- 100ml fish sauce
- juice of 1 lime
- 3 birds eye chillies, finely chopped in rings
- 1 small clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 2 tbsp palm or white sugar
- 1 tbsp of finely chopped cucumber
- 1 spring onion, finely chopped
- Mix the flour, turmeric, salt, sugar and white pepper in a large bowl and create a well in the centre.
- Slowly add the water and coconut milk and gently whisk to create a smooth batter. Set aside.
- Let's make the filling. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a wok or frying pan and sauté the shallots for a minute.
- Add the chicken and fish sauce and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring well.
- Add the prawns and mushrooms and cook on fairly medium high heat until the prawns are done and the juice from the mushroom is all dried up. Take off heat. We use the beansprouts later.
- Get a crêpe pan or a large heavy base frying pan and heat it on medium high heat. Grease it well with a tsp of oil.
- When the pan is hot, pour in a ladleful of the batter and very quickly swirl the pan so the batter forms a circle and covers the pan.
- Immediately follow with about a handful of the cooked filling and some beansprouts, scattering it evenly on one half, but not too close to the edge. If your pan is large, aim to divide the filling into about 4 portions, if not, 5 or 6 depending on how many you think you'll get. At the worst, the last pancake will have lots of filling!
- Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 3-4 minutes until the edges are crisping up. We go for 5-6 as we love crisp! If you're not too sure, slowly lift up one edge of the pancake slightly and check the level of doneness.
- With a spatula, lift the unfilled half of the pancake and fold over, slide onto a plate and serve immediately with a side salad and dipping sauce.