Bánh xèo – also known as crispy Vietnamese pancake, crepe or sizzling cake – is a famous street food which is widely believed to originate from France during its occupation of Vietnam. The word xèo depicts the sizzling sound when pouring the rice batter into the hot skillet.
This “Vietnamese pancake” has a yellow outer layer and is filled with boiled pork strips, shrimp, bean sprouts and spring onion. Though some people might prefer to use chopsticks to directly eat bánh xèo, the best way to enjoy it is eating with your hands. First, take a piece of bánh xèo and put it on the rice paper. Add fresh vegetables that are always served with the dish (there’re a lot of vegetables to choose, but lettuce, Vietnamese perilla, basil and bean sprouts are the most common) and roll them tightly. With each bite, don’t forget to dip the roll into the sauce.
I am sure that right after the first bite, the impressive taste of crunchy crust, savoury fillings, sweet and sour dipping sauce will definitely make you fall in love with this delicacy. Besides, the sauce is a perfect blend of spices (including fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, garlic and chilli), while the herbs help eliminate the greasy taste.
Each region across this S-shaped country has its own unique ingredients and flavours to make bánh xèo become one of its specialities. In Southern Vietnam, bánh xèo is in the size of a large dish and its outer layer is also yellow. In Central Vietnam, the dish is white and much smaller. As for Hanoi, the preparations of bánh xèo are similar to those in the south, but include special fillings like slices of Indian taro and green mango. Perhaps because of those differences, not only Vietnamese people but also foreigners may find it hard to resist the attraction of a crispy, messy but colourful combination all consisted in bánh xèo.