- 1 ¾ oz dried mung beans, soaked overnight then drained
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 14 oz raw school prawns (shrimp) or other small prawns, shell on
- 7 oz boneless pork belly, fat trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1 spring onion (scallion), thinly sliced
- 1 ¾ oz bean sprouts
- pinch of sea salt and ground white pepper
- ½ cup rice flour
- ¾ oz plain (all-purpose) flour
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 5 ½ fl oz coconut cream
- 5 ½ fl oz chilled soda water
- 1 spring onion (scallion), thinly sliced
- 1 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- ½ bird’s eye chilli, finely chopped
- juice of ½ lime
- 12 mustard green leaves
- 1 handful perilla leaves
- 1 handful mint leaves
- Nuoc Cham for dipping
Make the Nuoc Cham
Combine the fish sauce, white vinegar, sugar and ¼ cup water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir well and cook until just before boiling point is reached, then allow to cool. Stir in the garlic, chilli and lime juice, then serve. It will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week. Makes ½ cup.
Make the Bánh Xèo Miền Trung
Half-fill a wok or large saucepan with water and bring to a rapid boil over a high heat.
Line a steamer basket or bamboo steamer with baking paper and punch a few small holes in the paper. Drain the mung beans and place them in the steamer, then set over the pan and cover with a lid. Steam for 15 minutes, or until the beans are soft. Set aside.
Meanwhile, make the pancake batter. Sift the rice flour and plain flour into a bowl, add the salt and turmeric and mix well. Pour the coconut cream and soda water into the bowl and whisk to form a smooth batter. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
Place a frying pan over a medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil together with the garlic and prawns and stir-fry for 2 minutes, or until the prawns are just cooked. Remove the prawns and set aside. Wipe the pan clean, then add the remaining oil and repeat this process with the pork belly.
Lightly oil a non-stick 6- or 7-inch crepe pan and place it over a medium heat. Sprinkle a third of the spring onion into the pan and pour a third of the batter into the centre, then pick the pan up by the handle and tip it to spread the batter over the entire surface of the pan. Pour any excess back into the original batter. (The pancake should be quite thin.)
Scatter some mung beans, school prawns, pork, spring onion and bean sprouts over half of the pancake. Season with the salt and white pepper, then reduce the heat to low and cook for about 6 minutes, or until the pancake is crisp and browned. Using a spatula, fold the pancake in half and slide it onto a large plate. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
To serve, cut the pancakes into three or four pieces. Pick up a mustard green leaf and top it with a pancake piece and a couple of perilla and mint leaves. Roll the leaf up to form a parcel and dip it into nuoc cham before eating. Serves 4-6
About this recipe
“‘Bánh xèo’ literally means ‘sizzling’ in Vietnamese; when you pour the batter into a hot pan it sizzles madly, hence the name. In the central part of the country, the bánh xèo are much smaller than they are in Saigon – and my guy on Cô Giang Street makes this dainty-sized one. The batter is made using regular flour, rice flour, turmeric and coconut cream and the secret to crisp, crusty, crunchy bánh xèo is to cook them in quite a hot pan. On the street, they use copious amounts of oil but they get crisp just as well in a non-stick pan with minimal oil. Inside the bánh xèo are prawns, bits of pork, bean sprouts and cooked mung beans and, to eat the pancake, which is served folded over, you wrap large pieces of it together with fresh herbs in rice paper and lettuce leaves and dunk it into nuoc cham. It’s one of my all-time favourite things to eat; I just love it.
[Nuoc cham] is one of the most used sauces in all of Vietnamese cuisine – it’s served with everything from salads to bánh xèo (sizzling pancakes), to grilled meats and noodle dishes. You can tweak the balance of flavors to taste but it should always be salty from the fish sauce, a bit sour from the vinegar and lime juice, hot from the chilli and a little sweet. It’s very, very simple to make.” – Luke Nguyen
PERILLA LEAVES: Also called shiso, this highly fragranced herb is a member of the mint family. Its large, delicate, rounded leaves have a jagged edge, and can be green or purple. Perilla is used in salads and in a number of stews and simmered dishes.
MUSTARD GREENS: Part of the brassica family, mustard greens belong to the same genus as the plants that produce mustard seeds, and have a similarly strong flavor. They are often preserved as a salty pickle, which is readily available from Asian supermarkets.
Recipes and excerpts used with permission from Luke Nguyen’s Street Food Asia, by Luke Nguyen. Photography by Alan Benson.