Bacon, beer, and banh xeo, a trifecta of all that is wonderful in this world! Banh xeo is my all time favorite dish! Not one of my favorite dishes, my favorite dish! I’m suddenly flooded with fond memories of my mom and I cooking these up, filling the kitchen with the smell of turmeric, drowning out sounds with the sizzling skillet, watching the pale yellow batter transform into a crispy and yet tender golden crepe. Once you’ve tried this Vietnamese specialty, you’ll wonder how you’ve gone through life without it.
What is it? Glad you asked. Banh xeo, also known as Saigon sizzling crepes, is a rice flour based crepe flavored with turmeric, scallions, and encased with shrimp and pork belly. For any other typical crepe, you have your filling simply wrapped (like a taco), but as I’ve probably dug in already, banh xeo is no typical crepe. The succulent morsels of shrimp and pork are encased in the actual crepe itself (this is achieved by cooking the meat in a skillet and pouring the batter directly onto the bits of shrimp and pork). And just in case you didn’t pack in enough flavor, banh xeo is always served with a tangy and savory fish dipping sauce (nuoc mam).
The key to a crispy (or “crippy” as my mom says) crepe is carbonation. I’m using Tsing Tao beer, but any beer will do really. Maybe a buddy of yours brought over a beer that you actually hate but were too polite to refuse. That could work! Or you can just grab a can of mediocre beer from you beer pong stock (I know I’ve got one). Again, any beer will do as long as it’s still bubbly.
Bacon, bacon, bacon…just saying the word is making my tastebuds salivate, so I’m using thick cut bacon in place of regular sliced pork belly.
Although most banh xeo recipes call for a bean sprout filling, this lady is 86ing the soggy and tasteless tubes of water. There are very few foods on this planet that I actually hate, and bean sprouts are one of them, right along side licorice, tripe, and vomit flavored jelly beans.
2 cups rice flour (not glutinous rice flour, I had to learn the hard way #GummyCrepes)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 cup water
1/2 cup beer (for gluten-free folk, replace beer with water)
3/4 cup coconut milk
3 scallions, chopped
8 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1 inch squares
½ lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium red onion, sliced into thin strips
Approximately ¼ cup vegetable oil.
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Thai chili peppers, minced
1 tbsp pickled carrots and daikon (optional)
1 head lettuce
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch mint
1 bunch basil
In a large bowl, whisk together rice flour, salt, turmeric, coconut milk, water,beer, and scallions. Heat a deep skillet on medium high. To the skillet, add in 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil, rotating the pan, allowing the oil to coat the entire bottom surface. Add a few pieces of shrimp and bacon to the pan. Once both the shrimp and bacon are fully cooked, scatter them evenly and ladle in ⅓ cup of the crepe batter. When the crepe sides begin to lift and become somewhat crisp, add in the desired amount of sliced onions to the inside of the crepe (I added about 10-12 strips). Place a lid over the skillet for about 1 minute. Fold over the crepe like an omelet. Repeat until the batter and meat is all used up, re-greasing the pan with a ½ tsp of vegetable oil between each crepe. Serve the banh xeo over lettuce with dipping sauce and vegetable garnish.
How to eat
(Didn’t think you’d need instructions for this, did you?)
Your best eating utensils are your hands! Rip off a piece of crepe, roll it a leaf of lettuce, throw in some basil, mint, and cilantro. Voila! You just made yourself a banh xeo lettuce wrap. Dip your wrap in the sauce and allow your tastebuds to dance! This is how most people do it, but honestly, you can eat it any way you want, I won’t judge!