Whenever I introduce people to Vietnamese food, I always tell them that a majority of Vietnamese food is basically a cooked something that turns into a salad wrap. Anything that’s typically fried are traditionally enjoyed by wrapping said fried thing into a piece of lettuce, herbs, and dipped in nước chấm, or a sweet fish sauce based dipping sauce. The Vietnamese love the yin and yang play of textures, and flavors. If there’s something fried, it has to be accompanied by something fresh. This style of cuisine keeps the person eating from getting overly fatigued from eating the same dish.
Bánh Xèo found its origins in central Vietnam through an influence of French culture during the time when Vietnam was a colony.
Now, it has become a very traditional street food all over the country. It’s cheap to make, easy to cook, cheap to buy, and easy to eat. The word “bánh” can be loosely translated to anything that is formed together carb. It could be bread, cakes, noodles, or in this case, a crepe. The word “xèo” is a Vietnamese onomatopoeia for the sound the dish makes while it is cooking in the oil.
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 10-15 min
Bánh Xèo, Crepe Batter:
- ¼ cup of coconut cream
- ½ cup white rice flour
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 cup of water
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp of ground turmeric
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp of cooking oil
- 6-8 large frozen shrimp, deveined and de-shelled, thawed
- 3 tbsp of dried mung beans (split lentils is a good alternative, but does not have the al dente bite of mung beans)
- bean sprouts (shredded cabbage, or broccoli slaw are good alternatives)
- ½ an onion
Nước Chấm, Sweet Dipping Sauce:
- 1/4 fish sauce
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- fresh red serrano pepper, chili flakes, or chili paste
- Red leaf lettuce
- Perilla leaf, optional
- Pickled carrots, optional
- iKamper Disco Series
- 1 small pot or tea kettle
- 2 small bowls
- 2 dinner plates
- whisk or fork
- Silicon or plastic spatula
There are two things that need to be done before starting anything else. The crepe batter needs to be made, and the mung beans need to be soaked.
Each component needs about 15-20 minutes of sitting before cooking can be started.
Start with soaking the mung beans. Traditional recipes mention that the mung beans should be soaked overnight in room temperature water. But at camp (or even at home) we don’t have time for that! We can cheat by bringing a pot of water to boil, then pouring the hot water directly into a heat safe bowl with the 3 tablespoons of dried mung beans. Set aside.
Next, we’ll prepare the crepe batter. In another small bowl, put together the dry ingredients: ½ cup of white rice flour, ½ cup of corn starch, 1 tablespoon of ground turmeric, and a pinch of salt. Then the wet ingredients next: ¼ cup of coconut cream, 1 tablespoon of cooking oil, and 1 cup of water. Whisk together thoroughly until all the flour chunks have been smoothed out. Thinly slice up 2 green onions and mix into the batter. Set aside.
Then we move onto the nước chấm, or sweet dipping sauce. This can be made at home before heading off to a trip as well. Nước chấm can last 3-4 weeks as long as it’s stored in an icebox or electric cooler. To start, mix together the ¼ cup of fish sauce,¼ cup of sugar, ¼ cup of lime juice, ¼ cup of ½ cup of water, and the spice of your choice. I prefer the rooster brand of garlic chili paste. Taste it once everything is incorporated. Add more sweetness, saltiness, or acidity to your preference. I consider my fish sauce to be a combination of the sweet from southern Vietnam, and the savory intensity that comes from the central region of the country.
Slice half an onion into small strips. Set aside.
Drain the water from the bowl of soaking mung beans.
Check the batter before cooking.
If the consistency is thick like pancake batter, add water. If it’s too watery, add more rice flour and cornstarch. You want the consistency to be watery enough where you’re uncomfortable with how watery it is.
Fire up the iKamper Disco Series stove, set the heat to medium-low and preheat the enamel coated cooking dish.
Apply cooking oil to the dish. I like to apply the oil in a swirl going from the upper middle of the dish to the bottom. This way you’ll know that the cooking oil is up to temperature when the swirl of oil all starts to pool up at the bottom of the dish.
Add in a small handful of onions, saute in the oil for about 30 seconds, turn the heat down to low, then pour in half your batter. You want to create a roughly 10” in diameter crepe.
Spoon the mung beans all over the crepe. Then place 3-4 of the thawed shrimp onto one half of the now cooking crepe, then a small handful of bean sprouts on top of the shrimp. Let everything cook for about 5 minutes.
You’ll know when the crepe is ready to be folded when you take your spatula and slide it underneath the crepe and it removes itself cleanly from the dish. The edges should be crispy.
Fold the crepe over and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then flip the whole crepe and let it continue cooking for a final 2-3 minutes.
Place the finished crepe onto a plate which is garnished with whole leaves of red lettuce, sprigs of mint, optional perilla leaves, and optional Vietnamese pickled carrots.
Cut up the bánh xèo into smaller chunks and place the smaller chucks onto a whole leaf of lettuce to make a wrap. Top with mint, perilla, and pickled carrots, dip into the nước chấm and enjoy!
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