Banh Xeo! The amazing crispy savory crepe! Setting up a banh xeo station at home to feed my family is the closest I'll ever get to fulfilling a semi-secret dream of mine of becoming a street vendor. It not only tastes AMAZING, it looks way trickier than it is so you literally get your street cred, but is super simple to do!
Anyone can make it, the instructions are behind that banh xeo flour bag. You create batter, you prepare your fillings and veggies and voila! So straight forward I didn't even think it was necessary to post about a recipe. ...
So I won't!
However, there are secret grandma trade secrets that you can do to make sure your banh xeo at home is just as good as the restaurants if not better (because some of these restaurants don't seem to know these tricks either..)
I've watched people sell it, I've watched people make it, and I've become friends with as many elderly cooking aficionados as I could to gather some of these tested out and approved tricks. I may smell like dau xanh/Nick's vapor rub and gained unnecessary weight being friendly with my favorite people, but you're welcome!
Banh Xeo Tips and Tricks of the Trade!
- When creating your batter, swap out some of that water for beer. The carbonation and yeast in the beer will help your batter be more light and crispy
- For every bag of banh xeo flour I use at home, I also use 1/4 cup of corn starch. This corn starch gives you that crunch.
- I try to make my batter hours in advance if not the night before. The longer your batter gets to sit and contemplate it's life decisions, the more it works out for you.
- Marinate your protein. It DOES make a difference when you got other flavoring elements than just your dipping sauce (no hate to the nuoc cham tho)
- We use small sliced pork belly in our banh xeo, but in a pinch and with less effort you can use ground pork. If you opt for that pork belly, boiling pork belly in advance and slicing is much easier. You can marinate after you've sliced.
- Some people opt to pour batter into pan and then put all the fillings and veggies inside. I prefer adding oil to the pan, sauteing your protein then pouring your batter in.
- This allows carmelizing of your protein and better flavor profile distinguishable since you're not just 'steaming' it in inside the banh xeo.
- Do not precook your shrimp. Shrimp is easily cooked during this process of sauteing/steaming. The texture is much nicer if you leave them raw until you make your banh xeo.
- If you don't like bean sprouts, used shaved cabbage and onions 🙂
- Remember you get to change how thick or thin your banh xeo is. I prefer mine thinner and more crispy so at my house you'll find my batter more liquid-y.
- Add an egg to your batter if you feel inclined to give your batter more heartiness.
- Add more tumeric. It's a great supplement to any diet and gives your banh xeo a more vibrant color.
- Remember to marinate your proteins with plenty of black pepper. Black pepper helps with the break down and absorption of the good nutrients in the tumeric.
- Perfect your fish sauce. Seriously. This is a sweeter/more tart fish sauce and since it carries the dish when you eat your banh xeo, you wanna make sure you get it right. Every fam's taste preference is different so tailor it to however you like. I like to add a little extra water on top of whatever water is usually added to dilute it since my family pretty much drinks it up when they eat banh xeo.
- At the restaurants, they often pour spoonfuls of oil when the banh xeo is about done by lifting up the side of the banh xeo and distributing more oil that way. It deep fries and takes the banh xeo another level of crunchiness, but also another level of oiliness I try not to get into. But if you really wanna mimic them, that's what I've witnessed many places doing.
But now lets get to the real troubleshooting part. Cooking the batter.
Banh Xeo Batter Troubleshooting 101
It always takes me a few tries to get the temperature where I need it to be when making banh xeo. Every stove, every pan, every house is different. So be patient and keep on reading!
- When I pour in the batter, it quickly bubbles and stays in one spot, and I can't rotate the pan to move the batter to disperse it.
- Your pan is too hot. If you're unable to have a few seconds to be able to move the pan in circular motions to disperse the batter to fill the surface area of the pan since it's already cooked and not moving, you need to turn the heat down homie. Or is it you that's running a little too hot? 😉 nah, prob the stove. Turn the stove down.
- When I pour my batter in and move the batter around, it doesn't stick to sides or stay in place
- Your pan is too cold or you have way too much oil in a already non-stick pan
So, how do you turn this banh xeo thing into a science to nail down every time?
- Place your clean pan on the stove to high
- Reduce your heat to be in between medium and high and pour a tsp of oil.
- Saute your protein (what does this have to do with the batter?..patience homies I'm getting there)
- This will help absorb some of that excess heat
- You can see and hear if your pan is just way too hot and overkill for your saute
- You want to make sure that the oil and protein is still moderately sizzling when you pour in your batter.
- If you run into the issues above with batter not sticking you want to make sure the next time you saute your protein, you hear more sizzling going on. If the batters sticking too much, make sure you have less sizzling.
- The sizzles are where its at and sauteing your protein helps you visually see and hear what temperature your pans at or needs to be.
- Once you've figured out 1-3 and have poured in your batter, allow the batter to figure itself out for a few seconds before placing your veggies in (preferably on one side-- makes it easier to close the banh xeo later)
- Cover your pan, but not all the way. There's a lot of evaporation taking place and if you close all the way to steam your veggies, you're also going to get a wet banh xeo. I like to place a chopstick across the side of my pan and let the lid rest one side on the chopstick allowing the heat to escape.
- When you remove the lid, be careful to not let water from the lid transfer to the pan.
- Allow the banh xeo time to dry up and get crunchy before taking a spatula or your chopsticks to flip close the banh xeo. Premature banh xeo pull out game will make or break your banh xeo. If you're worried you'll burn the center of your banh xeo, turn down the heat a bit.
- It's done when you see browning of the sides and when you lift one side of your banh xeo up, it holds its form and isn't all wobbly.
- Practice! Throw a banh xeo party for your fam and once you get the hang of it, I bet you'll be able to use 2 different pans at the same time.
- If your banh xeos aren't working out the way you imagined, don't keep doing them the same way over and over again. Stop, take a break, and re-read some of the pointers above. Even if you burn them differently each time you try, it's better than failing the same exact way each time and not learning or improving yourself.