You have tried, Pho and Banh mi, what is next on the list of must-eat foods in Ho Chi Minh City? “Banh xeo”, a Vietnamese pancake, is the favorite of many people, including locals as well as tourists. It would be an incomplete foody journey in Ho Chi Minh City without knowing or trying Banh xeo here.
Banh Xeo’s Origin
According to some sources, Banh xeo has long originated from the Khmer in the South, while others believe that this Vietnamese street food comes from Central Vietnamese during their migration to the South. Another theory is that Banh xeo is a modification of the Indian “dosa”, which came to Vietnam via the Chams, who lived in South-Central Vietnam until the 19th century.
Banh Xeo in Vietnamese Foods Culture
If you cannot decide what there is to eat in the afternoon in Ho Chi Minh City, Banh xeo – one of the favorite foods in Vietnamese daily life – could be the best choice for your snack time.
Depending on the region in Vietnam, the pancake is cooked and enjoyed in many different ways. However, the main ingredient of Vietnamese pancakes is always the rice flour batter, and it is served with herbs and dipping sauce. It was a rustic dish and popular street food of the Vietnamese, but its name became a phenomenon when Muoi Xiem, a lady with many years of experience in making these pancakes, was sponsored to travel overseas and promote the dish to the world.
How to Make Banh Xeo
Banh xeo’s main proteins usually include shrimp, thinly-sliced pork, and baby seashells
Banh xeo’s name comes from the sizzling sound of the batter when it’s poured into the wok. The version of the Vietnamese pancake you are most likely to see is the Southwest’s Banh xeo. The mixture of this pancake is usually made from rice flour, coconut milk, chopped scallions, turmeric powder, and altogether with hot water, but the ingredients can be a little different across regions.
Whole prawns, pork belly, bean sprouts, and mung beans are stir-fried. The batter is later poured over the fillings spread thinly in a circular motion on the hot-fired wok. Once cooked, the pancake is folded up halfway and placed on a plate, and served with fresh Vietnamese herbs and vegetables such as lettuce, perilla, fish mint, Thai basil, ambarella leaves, and many more.
The pan for making banh xeo is quite thin to allow high heat to spread evenly, resulting in thin and crispy banh xeo
It takes years of experience to perfect a banh xeo
Banh Xeo Variations Throughout Vietnam
Southwest Vietnam’s Banh Xeo
Southern-style banh xeo is quite big, thin, and crispy
The pancake is best enjoyed fresh off the heat. While it is still hot, you should break a piece of the golden and thin fringed rim like rice paper and try to taste the unique flavor of pancakes. The smell, texture, and taste of the Banh xeo combining with the sweet and sour garlic fish sauce would make you excited and admire this work of art.
Central Vietnam’s Banh Xeo
Central-style banh xeo is much smaller with more generous toppings
This version of the Vietnamese pancake is much different from the Southwest style. It is called “Banh khoai” and the size is significantly smaller. The ingredients are put into round molds, cast on charcoal stoves, and covered by a lid for about 2 minutes until everything is cooked. The brownish color is that of an egg rather than turmeric. And another difference is the dipping sauce, a thick sauce made from pounded peanuts instead of regular fish sauce.
Northern Vietnam’s Banh Xeo
Northern pancake is different than others because they use beer instead of coconut milk, which is to make the pancake crispy even when they get cooler. The fillings are cooked separately from the batter and only added later on the pancakes. This version of Banh xeo is not as famous as the Central and Southwest Vietnam versions, so it could be difficult to find them in restaurants.
How to Eat Banh Xeo Like a Local
Banh xeo goes hand in hand with tasty fish sauce dipping sauce and a lot of vegetables
The best way to eat and enjoy Banh xeo is by using your hands. A pair of chopsticks may be provided to pick up the ingredients, but after step one below, you won’t need any other utensils for this Vietnamese street food.
Step 1: Use rice paper, or “Banh trang”, take a part of the crepe with shrimp and pork belly, a few bean sprouts accompanied with vegetables you like and place them on one side of the rice paper. For the wrap, you can also replace the rice paper with lettuce or mustard leaf. Some locals go straight for the big vegetable leaf to wrap a piece of banh xeo (similar to how you’d eat Korean BBQ) and skip the rice paper wrapper.
Step 2: Roll ingredients up tightly and slowly like a spring roll.
Step 3: It is now ready to be dipped in the fish sauce called nuoc mam, which is one of the secrets that make this Vietnamese pancake the best must-try food in Vietnam. That sauce is a combination of fish extracts, lime juice, sugar, chili, and garlic in a particular proportion.
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Where to Eat Banh Xeo in Ho Chi Minh City
Banh Xeo 46A
Address: 46A Dinh Cong Trang St., Tan Dinh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh
Opening hours: 9:30 AM – 2 PM and 4:30 PM – 9 PM
Price: VND 80,000 – VND 135,000
The unique feature of “Banh Xeo 46A” is the way they cook the Vietnamese crepes on charcoal stoves. This place is still at the top of traditional Vietnamese pancake eateries in Ho Chi Minh, especially among foreign visitors looking to enjoy the iconic Vietnamese street food.
Banh Xeo Muoi Xiem
Address: 204 Nguyen Trai St., Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh
Opening hours: 10 AM – 10 PM
Price: VND 50,000 – VND 110,000
The original Muoi Xiem’s pancakes are served on a bamboo tray. At branches of Muoi Xiem restaurants, besides Vietnamese pancakes, people can also enjoy Southwest Vietnam dishes such as Banh tet, a traditional cylinder cake, che (sweet dessert soup), and tea.
Address: 82 Nguyen Van Troi Residential, District Phu Nhuan
Opening hours: 3 PM – 9 PM
Price: VND 20,000 – VND 70,000
At this restaurant, you can not only see how Banh khoai is different from Banh xeo but also get to enjoy many other Central Vietnamese dishes.
Summary of Banh Xeo in Ho Chi Minh City
Banh xeo is a long-time favorite food of many generations in Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City. It is both good to have it as a snack and a meal. The crispy rim and creamy coconut milk flavor will make you want another bite. It has become famous worldwide, but you should come to Vietnam and try it the local way.
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