Though Pho and Banh Mi take the spotlight when it comes to Vietnamese fare, only true blue locals would recognise the greatness of this street dish called Banh Xeo.
Bearing a resemblance to both a crepe and an omelette, Banh Xeo is the perfect balance between the two. It resembles a French omelette but is surprisingly eggless, and yet it carries the thin texture of a crepe.
The half-moon yellow pancake is made of rice flour, water, and turmeric powder, with its fillings including all variations of fresh vegetables plus a generous serving of minced pork or shrimp.
What is Banh Xeo?
In the Vietnamese language, Banh translates to cake, while Xeo means sizzling. This latter refers to the moment the batter is poured into the pan – hence why Banh Xeo is also sometimes called a ‘sizzling cake’.
In the world of street food, Banh Xeo is a definite favourite among locals and tourists. Crispy to bite, savoury to the taste buds, not to mention the health benefits that come with consuming mouthfuls of fresh vegetables.
Generally, Banh Xeo can be differentiated into two types – Central Banh Xeo and Southern Banh Xeo. But on a province level, more variations have surfaced in the past few years. Central Banh Xeo is usually broken into smaller pieces and wrapped in rice paper before being dipped in peanut sauce. Southern Banh Xeo, on the other hand, is considerably larger and is wrapped in lettuce or mustard leaves with nuoc cham as an accompanying sauce.
The fillings for both types of Banh Xeo vary to a great extent as well. In Central Vietnam, chefs often include starfruit and banana in their recipe while Southern cooks tend to favour mushrooms, lotus roots and even coconut in their pancakes.
Origins of Banh Xeo
Due to the strong resemblance to French crepes, it is widely believed that Banh Xeo was a result of the French occupation in Vietnam from 1862 to 1945. However, some sources dispute this because French crepes get their yellow tone from eggs while the ingredients of Banh Xeo, from its eggless batter to its fillings, are entirely local.
Some speculate that Banh Xeo extends further than the French occupation, perhaps drawing inspiration from South Indian cuisine all the way back in the first millennia. Others hold their stance that Banh Xeo is a direct descendant of another crispy Vietnamese pancake known as Banh Khoai or that the recipe was adapted centuries ago from the Cham culture.
Variations of Banh Xeo
Banh Khoai meaning “the happy cake” is perhaps the most similar version of sizzling cake in terms of preparation, ingredients and accompaniments. Found in the Hue area of Vietnam, Banh Khoai is generally greasier as it is deep-fried while Banh Xeo is pan-fried. As a way to balance out the oiliness, Banh Khoai is served with fresh herbs and salads.
Besides Banh Khoai and other regional variations, Banh Xeo also happens to exist outside the borders of Vietnam. In fact, Cambodians consume Banh Xeo as a daily staple, but the dish is under a different name – Banh Chao. The Cambodian variation is meatier and packs a saltier punch compared to its Vietnamese counterpart. In some Cambodian recipes, eggs are also used in the preparation of the batter.
Where to Find Banh Xeo
With Vietnamese cuisine gaining rapid popularity in Malaysia, there are now hundreds of authentic restaurants serving delicious Vietnamese food, from franchised outlets like Pho Vietz to fine-dining establishments.
Whatever your budget is, you can explore your options of getting Banh Xeo on foodpanda now!