bánh xèo trials

Posted in edibles by nikkipolani on March 3, 2013

As a testament to my mom’s cooking style, I found her measuring cups in a basket on the top shelf in a neglected corner of her cupboards.

Bánh xèo (sizzling Vietnamese pancake type thing) is the kind of food I’ve only had at home.  My parents have tried it at restaurants around town, but none that they could recommend.  I’d been pretty happy with the wheat-free beer batter for fish, so I thought I’d like to try a wheat-free bánh xèo batter with beer, too, to see how it might affect the crispiness.  My mom and I decided we’d conduct bánh xèo trials with four variants:  rice flour with light beer (pale ale) or darker beer and brown rice flour with the same two kinds of beer.

Each variant was a half recipe of the following basic components:

1 cup rice flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 cup coconut milk
beer– enough to thin batter
1/2 cup green onions

Right away, we noticed that the brown rice flour variants needed more beer to thin it enough so that the batter would flow around the fillings adequately.

Mom had already prepared the fillings and began with a teaspoon grapeseed oil in a large pan over medium heat, then tossed in a small handful of bean sprouts, a few sliced onions, a spoonful of sautéed seasoned ground pork, and four shrimp.

Then she held the fry pan at an angle and ladled in some of the batter, tilting the pan to get the batter to fill in.  After a minute or so, she’d cover the pan for three minutes, then uncover and check if the edges had curled up yet.  Once they curl and a quick check of the underside shows browning, the bánh xèo is folded over and removed to a plate.

Here are our results:  The brown rice and beer combinations (didn’t seem to matter whether dark or lighter beer was used) turned out mushy in the middle while the edges had a lovely and hefty crunch.  But the too-moist center had an unpleasant doughy texture.


The white rice flour and beer combinations were less doughy and the snappy satisfying crunch was pretty good throughout.  Still, we wanted to use the commercial mix (contains rice flour, wheat flour, potato starch and a bunch of other stuff) for comparison.  The bánh xèo was thinner and lighter both in color and bite.


We thought my dad would make a good judge, tasting the bánh xèo as they came off the fry pan.  But he seemed to like them all, commenting that he preferred the lighter and thinner texture of the commercial mix.  But really, by the end, I think he was experiencing bánh xèo fatigue.  I think we might do some more trials beginning with rice flour and testing tapioca and potato starch.

14 Responses

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  1. shoreacres said, on March 3, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    There’s not a chance I’m ever going to make this, but pray tell – how would one pronounce it, in case I ever went into one of the Vietnamese restaurants here and made a stab at ordering it? I think I’ve got the bahn, but the other word? Not so much. ;)

    It looks wonderful, actually, in every variation. Would it be fair to say these are cousins to crepes?

    • nikkipolani said, on March 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm

      Yeah, I’m not sure “pancakes” does these justice. I’ve heard them described as crepes though the goal is to have really crispy finish — in some ways more like a crispy taco. If you say “say-o” you’d be close enough — it’s hard to describe in words. In VN, the letter “x” is like the letter “s” in seed or summer. One of these days, I want to try restaurant bnh xo, too.

  2. Lydia Plunk said, on March 3, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    What fun to cook with your mom!

  3. Glo said, on March 3, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    I’m getting behind in my comments! Loved your first bouquet in the previous post…lovely to see some actual flowers :) This looks like a tasty dish, and as usual when I look at your posts, my senses are happy ~ from all the lovely sights and savoury smells :)

  4. elaine said, on March 4, 2013 at 2:03 am

    I would have been quite happy to eat all of them – they look truly delicious :)

  5. snowbird said, on March 4, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Oh my……salivating here I am! Now this is a dish I’ve never heard of yet is right up my street. I love spicy food and would love to give this a go. Can you add any filling you like?, say mushrooms?
    I’m happy to be the guinea pig for the next tasting session btw!xxxxx

    • nikkipolani said, on March 4, 2013 at 11:12 am

      Would LOVE to have you at the next trials! I’m sure you can do any fillings you like. Shrimp and pork are the traditional ones. The sauce is usually a jarred plum sauce with a sambal-like chile sauce and some chopped peanuts. And we serve it with fresh herbs and greens (though my dad forgot them when he was digging in). If you try this out, remember that it doesn’t keep even for five minutes. No one eats together — we just eat as soon as a bnh xo is ready.

  6. snowbird said, on March 4, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Mmmmmmmmmmmm……can’t WAIT to try it. The wonder of the blog eh….a constant journey of discovery!!!!

    Keep my seat warm now….xxxxx

  7. Flighty said, on March 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Interesting, and something that I’d be happy to try! Mind you judging by the other comments I don’t think that there’d be any left! xx

  8. willowknits said, on March 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    It almost looks like a crepe rather than a pancake. Without the shrimp, I’d love to try it!

    • nikkipolani said, on March 4, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      I agree — it’s often called pancake or crepe, but as I mentioned to Linda, since we’re going for a crispy finish, it’s more like a crispy taco.

  9. Ellen said, on March 7, 2013 at 9:11 am

    It would be great to be on your taste tester list!!

  10. Olivia said, on March 8, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Wow, you have made me so hungry, Nikki. Your poor Dad, though! Asking a man to judge food, lol!

    I love crepey-pancakey things. I often try the scallion pancakes at Chinese restaurants, and the other day I bought a Bavarian potato pancake mix that can be jazzed up with cheese and scallions. You can’t say no to that. Don’t be surprised if I drop some chopped jalapeno in there.

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