Central Vietnam mini pancakes find favor in Saigon

By Di Vy   September 3, 2019 | 09:27 pm PT
At the Ban Co Market in Saigon, a street vendor hawks mini banh xeo for less than a dollar.

Suong, 39, said she opened the eatery in District 3 four years ago and has been serving central region-style crispy pancakes.

Every morning she buys her ingredients in the same market. Then she prepares the ingredients and heads off to grind her own rice flour to make the batter. Suong explained that ready made flour, while admittedly convenient, just cannot compare with homemade flour.

Her central region-style pancakes are around 10 centimeters in diameter which are smaller than the Mekong Delta-style.

Freshly made banh xeo and banh khot. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

Freshly made banh xeo. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

Though it is unclear when the crispy pancakes first made an appearance, banh xeo is a popular dish in the central region and the Mekong Delta. And everywhere locals add their own dash of creativity.

If banh xeo in the Mekong Delta is larger with lots of shrimp, meat, green bean, or coconut milk, those of  the central region are about the size of a palm since the batter is poured into a mold rather than a big pan. It also has fewer ingredients in form of some bean sprout and a couple of pieces of pork.

Suong said she does not use egg or coconut milk in her pancakes. "I use some turmeric powder to make it look more appealing."

The banh xeo at this eatery is about 10-centimeter in diameter with brean sprout and pork inside. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

The banh xeo at Suong's eatery is around 10 centimeters in diameter with brean sprout and pork inside. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

The eatery opens at 2-6 p.m. every day, with 4-5 p.m. being the peak time when her five little ovens operate at full capacity.

Suong only makes the pancakes on customers’ orders meaning it is always fresh and crispy.

Visitors can see how she makes the cakes, from pouring the batter into the mold to adding meat and bean sprouts, waiting until the flour turns golden brown and folding it in half.

She also serves banh khot, a cousin of the banh xeo. Suong uses the same batter and adds shrimp instead of pork.

The dish comes to life when eaten with fresh vegetables and dipped in a bowl of fish sauce which has pickled papaya and carrot. One bite into it and there is an explosion of flavors and textures in the mouth.

A banh xeo costs VND7,000 ($0.3).

Suong is making banh xeo in a small road inside Ban Co Market in District 3. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

Suong makes banh xeo in a small street inside Ban Co Market in Saigon’s District 3. Photo by VnExpress/Di Vy.

Since the street is inside Ban Co Market, it is sometimes a bit dirty and becomes slushy during the rains. Diners can park their vehicles in empty spaces near the venue.

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