Since we’re in Saigon, we are starting TnT’s Excellent Food-Venture with one of mankind’s greatest creations: banh xeo. A savory pancake made with rice flour and turmeric, banh xeo, which literally translates as “sizzling cake,” is a southern Vietnamese specialty. Basic forms of this delectable dish are filled with bean sprouts, egg, green beans, pork and shrimp. More elaborate high-end banh xeo might include fish, squid, prawns, and mixed vegetables.
The dish is served with a large plate of greens including: lettuce, mustard leaves, Asian basil, mint, and other herbs. (If you are familiar with Vietnamese food, you’ll know that a huge plate of fresh greens comes with many dishes.) Use your chop sticks, or hands if you must, to rip off a piece of banh xeo and place it in a large lettuce leaf or mustard leaf. Throw in some mint, basil and whatever else happens to be sitting on the side plate, and then wrap the whole thing into a roll.
You then dip your rolled up pancake into the small dish of nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce mixed with water, lemon, and chili). In some restaurants, you may get different sauces as well. Don’t assume fancy restaurants serve the best banh xeos, many small market stalls serve phenomenal banh xeos and often include larger plates of fresh greens and herbs.
My biggest problem with banh xeo is that I want to eat it every day for every meal. It’s good that we are on our Food-Venture so that I am forced to try different dishes.
Here I should give credit where credit is due. My mother, otherwise known as Greeneyes on the blog, is a devoted banh xeo eater. She introduced Thomas and me to the dish back in the States, so that we were well prepared to dive in and sample the banh xeos on day one here in Saigon.