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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bánh Xèo (Sizzling Savory Crepe)

Bánh xèo tastes best on a cold and raining day. There's something about the cold and rain that beckon my senses to the beautiful sizzling aroma of turmeric, pork, shrimp, green scallion and bean sprouts. What could be better than enjoying a piping hot, crunchy delicious bánh xèo while listening to the falling rain from the kitchen nook on a cold crisp lazy afternoon? Maybe washing it all down with a exquisitely chilled lucky Buddha beer.

Bánh xèo, literally translates to "sizzling cake", apparently named for the inviting sizzle when the batter meets the fryer. Southern-style bánh xèo contains coconut milk while certain central regions of Vietnam skip the coconut milk and sometimes the turmeric powder altogether. My girls are not too fond of the coconut milk so I usually skip it. My older daughter thinks turmeric is not only a powerful medicine that has many health benefits but also makes one smarter just by eating it once a week. I guess I need to come up with more dishes that require turmeric.

Bánh xèo is traditionally made with rice flour and water but there are many methods that we can use to make it crispier.  These include mixing rice flour with beer instead of water; mixing wheat flour with rice flour; grinding mung bean with rice to make the batter; mixing rice flour with baking powder.  My mother usually squeezes some fresh lime juice into her rice batter to achieve this as well.

A few months back, after looking at the lush mustard greens, chrysanthemum greens and varietal herbs growing in my vegetable garden, I could't resist the idea of bánh xèo. I found a couple bags of rice flour and cornstarch in the pantry. The chicken tenderloin and shrimps were in the freezer. I dug out some mango and mushrooms from the fridge. I decided to experiment a bánh xèo batter made of rice flour with cornstarch and lime juice. The result was beyond my expectation. After a few more tries to the achieve the same texture and paper thin crust, it was ready to be shared.
Recipe: Bánh Xèo

for Batter

4 cups (16 oz) Rice Flour
3 tablespoons Corn Starch
4 cups Water
1 tablespoon Lime Juice
1/2 tablespoon Turmeric Powder
1/2 tablespoon Salt
1/2 cup finely cut Green Onion

for Filling

1 pound of pork belly, thinly sliced
1 pound medium size Shrimp, deveined and peeled
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Ground Pepper
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
Mushrooms (king oyster, enoki, and oyster mushrooms are my favorite)
2 bags Bean Sprout
Cooking Oil

For Fish Sauce Dipping

1/4 cup Fish Sauce
1/4 cup Sugar
1/8 cup fresh Lime Juice
1/2 cup Water
1 tablespoon Garlic, finely minced
1-2 Red Chili Pepper, finely minced

Healthy Condiments

Lettuce Leaves or Mustard Greens or Chrysanthemum Greens
Cucumbers, sliced
Mango or Granny Smith, cut into julienne strips, optional
assorted Herbs

Making Dipping Sauce 

Combine all the fish sauce dipping ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well until sugar dissolves. Set aside. 
Preparing Batter

Combine the batter ingredients in a bowl and stir until well blended.
Preparing Filling

In a skillet, add pork and cook for about 5 minutes until the fat part becomes transparent. Add shrimps and seasoning with salt, sugar, ground pepper, and garlic powder, and mix well. Cook for a couple more minutes. The meat and shrimps don't need to be cooked all the way. Remove from heat.
Frying Bánh Xèo

Heat a non-stick pan over medium-low heat.  Drizzle cooking oil into the pan. Add a few pieces of pork, shrimps and mushrooms, and cook until the meat and shrimps are golden brown. Spread the filling evenly on the pan.

Stir batter well and ladle about 1/4 cup of the batter and quickly tilt to evenly coat the surface. The thinner the layer the better, so try to ladle less batter if the first one is too thick.

Top the batter with bean sprouts. Place a lid over for about a minute.

Remove the lid. I sometime drizzle a little more oil around the edges to make it extra crispy. When crepe begins to curl up on the edges and turns golden brown and crispy, fold the crepe in half.

filling: chicken, shrimps, mushroom, bean sprouts

vegan crepe- pan fried tofu, grilled corn, king oyster mushroom, bean sprouts

vegan crepe

Gently remove the crepe to a serving plate. Repeat with remaining batter and ingredients.

Bánh xèo is served wrapped in mustard leaf, lettuce leaf or rice paper and stuffed with assorted herbs, and dipped in a fish sauce dipping. It's a great way to catch up on your herbs and vegetables! 

Besides the basic vegetables and herbs, I also like to add some sweet, mildly tart and crunchy mango or Granny Smith apple, or try adding pickled daikon and carrot to create a different level of texture while adding more fruits or veggies.

Bánh xèo will lose it crispiness if made in advance. To make bánh xèo crispy again, broil crepe on low for a few minutes. Make sure to leave the oven door open slightly open while broiling.
Eat well. Stay hungry.