Vietnamese sizzling crepes (bánh xèo) is my favourite Vietnamese dish to enjoy in summer with family and friends. I am particularly partial to this crispy savoury crepe filled with juicy prawns, pork, bean sprouts and earthy mung beans, wrapped in lettuce cups with basil, mint, coriander and served with a sweet and zesty Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce. Since moving out of home and gaining independence, I have found a way to enjoy bánh xèo not just on special occasions, but throughout the year and even on a school night!
Bánh xèo is characterised by its light, golden and crispy outer shell. After decades of research and practice, I have finally cracked the code to simplify the bánh xèo batter recipe without compromising any of its unique characteristics, while also reducing preparation time. All you need is six simple ingredients that you can source from your local supermarket: rice flour, beer, soda water, coconut cream powder, turmeric and salt. Through all the research and testing, I came to find that when it comes to bánh xèo, split mung beans are a key ingredient for perfecting the fine balance of flavour and texture that is synonymous with Vietnamese cuisine.
It is definitely optional to include split mung beans when making bánh xèo; mainly due to their texture and the cooking time involved. The perfectly cooked split mung bean should be easily separated, hold its structure when picked up, but crumble easily when consumed. Some cooks omit them altogether, and I often question why they’ve done that. Is it because they don’t like mung beans or because they find it difficult or time consuming to prepare?
The beauty of split mung beans is that you can prepare them the night before and store them in the fridge without loss of quality when consuming the following day. For my split mung beans recipe it takes approximately 90 minutes to prepare and involves pre-soaking the mung beans. However, if you’ve forgotten to soak the split mung beans, which I have done on multiple occasions, you can still go ahead and cook bánh xèo without it.
Typically enjoyed on the weekends and in large groups amongst Vietnamese families, this dead-simple recipe has been created to allow a family of 4-6 to enjoy one of Vietnam’s most popular homestyle dishes on a school night. If you haven’t attempted cooking bánh xèo before, this is the ideal recipe to start with to build your confidence. I have even put together a Vietnamese sizzling crepe cooking kit for those ‘hard to find’ ingredients. Everything else is available at your local supermarket, and once you have it down pat you will be doing the family a favour and including it in the regular rotation to deliver the flavours of bánh xèo any night.
Bánh xèo batter
250ml soda water/water
50g coconut cream powder
250g rice flour
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 stalks spring onions finely sliced (optional)
185g split mung beans
500g pork mince
500g prawn cutlets, chopped
2 brown onions, sliced
250g bean sprouts
50ml vegetable oil
1 cos or iceberg lettuce
1 bunch mint
1 bunch Thai basil/basil
1 bunch coriander (optional)
In a small bowl, cover split mung beans well with water and soak for an hour. Strain and add to a small pot with 300ml cold water. Bring water to the boil then reduce to medium heat. Once approximately 250ml of the water has evaporated, cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes. The water that remains in the pot will ensure the bottom of the pot won’t burn.
Add batter ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk well, then place in the fridge for 20 minutes to settle.
In a large frying pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil and the onion. Fry on medium to high heat until almost cooked through. Remove and set aside.
In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil and fry off pork mince until well browned. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.
Cut prawns into bite-size pieces, and in the same fry pan add 1 tablespoon of oil, fry until almost cooked through. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.
To fry the bánh xèo, heat a large frying pan on high, add 2 teaspoons of oil, a small ladle of batter (mix well before use as the rice flour would have settled on the bottom of the bowl) to thinly cover the bottom of the pan. Move the batter around by rotating the pan. Reduce to medium heat, and on one half of the pan add a few teaspoons of mince, prawns and mung beans and a small handful of bean sprouts. Cook for 1 minute and 30 seconds covered, then another minute with the lid off or until the crepe is golden. Fold the half without ingredients over to create the perfect bánh xèo crepe. Repeat the process for the next crepe.
Serve with lettuce, mint, basil, coriander and nuoc mam cham (Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce).