Vietnamese crepe, lovely to see and crunchy to eat

May 27, 2016 | 11:13 pm PT
‘Banh xeo’, the Vietnamese sister of the crepe, makes a perfect rival to its western counterpart thanks to its combination with salty rather than sweet toppings and open-air preparation. A popular dish in central and southern Vietnam, but everywhere it perches, locals add their own dash of creativity.

The ‘banh xeo’ we are about to show you is a famous variation from Cao Lanh, Dong Thap Province. Rice batter spreads flat on a metal pan, sizzling over firewood, ready to wrap itself over a meaty filling.


The rice used to make the batter must be dry and easy to rise, rather than the thick and sticky one that is steamed and boiled into ‘xoi’ and ‘banh chung’. Finely ground rice is mixed with coconut milk, salt and chopped scallion.


The filling boasts bean sprouts and a crunchy juicy fruit named jicama, which tastes a bit like pear but less sweet and thicker.

In Cao Lanh, the protein part of the filling is pork/prawn and duck. Pan is preheated on the oven, then spread a thin layer of batter, followed by the filling. When the batter is crunchy enough, the cooker will fold it in half.

In Cao Lanh, the savory part of the filling is pork and prawn or duck. Preheat the frying pan, then spread a thin layer of batter, followed by the filling. When the batter is crunchy enough, fold it in half.


But it's the duck filling that's earned Cao Lanh 'banh xeo' its name. Duck is prepared, rid of big bones, and then finely chopped. Instead of the common pork and prawn filling, duck ‘banh xeo’ is filled with only duck, the pear-like fruit and bean sprouts. Take a bite and feel the noticeable rugged texture borrowed from chopped bones, rather than the somewhat bland soft experience of pork and prawn.


Fresh out of pan ‘banh xeo’ is served on a banana leaf for the sake of aroma.


As versatile as any other street food, ‘banh xeo’ can be enjoyed in various ways, ranging from neat eating to rollling with whatever you see fit.


Sweet and sour dipping sauce with pickle has been the spirit of the tropical street food since forever, having all gourmets agree on one point: it’s the sauce that tells stalls apart.


Already light but can still be lighter, that must be the motto thanks to which every ‘banh xeo’, though not greasy or oily at all, is accompanied with a bunch of herbs to help balance the taste. That’s also one way the yin-yang philosophy of the Far East gastronomy is preserved, whether in state banquets or at a roadside stall.


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