Vietnam is one of the world’s great food destinations, and this recipe for banh xeo – savory shrimp pancakes – exemplifies the country’s fresh flavors and bountiful seafood. Originating in Ho Chi Minh City, these crispy delights are enjoyed up and down the Southeast Asian country.
The secret to the crispy nature of the pancakes gives them their name:Banh xeo flour is a prepared blend of rice flour, self-rising flour, and turmeric. You can find it online or at Asian grocery stores. Banh xeo literally translates as “sizzling cakes” – which is the sound that you should hear when you pour the batter into your pan.
Feel free to use a variety of seafood if you prefer instead of all shrimp. Sliced squid and firm whitefish also work very well in this recipe. You can also use thinly sliced, cooked pork for a variation. Banh xeo pancakes cook very quickly, so be sure to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start.
Banh Xeo: Vietnamese Savory Shrimp Pancakes Recipe
1 ¼ cups banh xeo flour
½ teaspoon powdered sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 ½ tablespoons coconut milk
3 green onions, thinly sliced
vegetable oil for frying
1 ¾ pounds cooked shrimp, sliced in half lengthwise
4 tablespoons fried shallots
2 cups bean sprouts
5 green onions, thinly sliced
(Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce)
3 tablespoons fish sauce
½ cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
½ cup powdered sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 long red chili pepper, chopped
1 head iceberg (or 2 heads butter) lettuce, separated into cups
Fresh cilantro and/or mint leaves
Carrots, matchstick sliced (optional)
First, make the sauce by mixing the first four ingredients until the sugar dissolves, then adding the garlic and chili pepper. Set aside.
Sift the banh xeoflour into a bowl. Make a well in the center, and add the sugar, salt, egg, coconut milk and ¾ cup water. Mix until smooth, and then add in the green onions and combine.
Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a medium-size frying pan over high heat. When hot, ladle 1/3 cup batter into the center of the pan – you should hear a sizzling sound. Working quickly, rotate the pan until the batter evenly covers the base. When you see bubbles start to form on the uncooked side of the pancake, cover and cook for one more minute.
Remove the lid, and top the pancake with some of the shrimp, fried shallots, bean sprouts and green onions. Cook for two minutes, or until the bottom of the pancake is crispy and golden. Remove from the pan, and fold the pancake in half. Repeat this process until all the ingredients are used up.
To eat, tear off pieces of the pancakes and lay them inside the lettuce cups. Top with herbs and/or carrots, roll them up, and dip into the sauce. Enjoy!
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Pancakes image via Shutterstock