Our submission for this year’s pancake competition had a Vietnamese flavour. When we were in Ho Chi Minh city we fell in love with their Bánh Xèo. These enormous crispy, Simpsons coloured pancakes are stuffed with prawns, pork, bean sprouts and mint and are then wrapped in lettuce and rice paper, before being dipped in nuoc cham. Our favourite was this monster in Ho Chi Minh City which was the size of a satellite dish and as crispy as a Pringle.
We learned that Bánh Xèo is an onomatopoeic word that connotes the sizzling or crackling sound you hear when you make one. The batter is a mixture of rice flour, coconut milk and turmeric which fries in a way that leaves a pock marked surface similar to baddy’s face in Licence to Kill.
We found it took longer to cook the pancake than a traditional English version. But the patience was rewarded with a crispy shell to take on the filling.
We opted for a chicken and prawn filling instead of pork and prawn. You could just as easily use oriental mushrooms if you fancied a change. It’s important to marinade the ingredients in fish sauce, lemongrass, garlic, chilli and ginger first to infuse the flavour. Then fry away with some spring onions and keep warm whilst you make the pancake.
200g rice flour
Half a can of coconut milk
2 teaspoons of turmeric powder
Pinch of salt
Coconut oil for frying
4 chicken thighs
2 cloves of garlic – finely sliced
1 lemongrass stem – finely sliced
1 chilli – finely sliced
Large thumb of ginger – grated
Big slug of fish sauce
150 g prawns
Handful of mint
Coconut oil for frying
Nuoc cham dipping sauce
100ml fish sauce
50ml lime juice
3 finely sliced red chillies
1 teaspoon of palm sugar
1 clove of finely chopped garlic
Marinade the filling ingredients in fish sauce, ginger, lemongrass, garlic and chilli for half an hour. Then fry till cooked. Add the marinade towards the end to cook off. And some palm sugar. This should form a nice sticky sauce. Keep warm.
Whisk the rice flour, coconut milk, salt and turmeric together with the water to form a batter. Allow to rest for a bit.
Then add some coconut oil and groundnut oil to a frying pan and when hot add a spoonful of batter. The batter should fizz and crackle. It should also look pockmarked.
Once set and crispy on the other side, give it a careful flip. Because these are lacking in gluten they aren’t as stretchy so be a bit more cautious at this stage.
Serve the pancake, bent in half with the filling spooned in, like a taco. Then plate up with a wedge of lime, some bean sprouts, mint, and extra chillies. And a little bowl of nuoc cham to dip into.
If you wanted to be extra authentic you could wrap the pancake in rice pancakes – but, they are just as nice on their own I think. And a lot less fiddly.
Some nice people from Roberson Wines gave us a bottle of Cono Sur Single Estate Chilean Reisling which paired perfectly with the Bánh Xèo. Fresh enough to slice through the complex flavours and rich enough to cope with the hint of spice. Not bad for £9 a bottle.