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Banh Xeo, Eating and Cooking Vietnam’s Crispy Pancakes

The menu just said banh xeo, Vietnamese pancakes. We ordered them innocent and unexpecting with no idea what would be delivered to our table. We were in Hoi An, a city in central Vietnam famous for good food so we figured, as we had 3 months to spend in Vietnam, that we should try every item on the menu. Our first banh xeo had us hooked.

At least one of our family has eaten them every day since that first taste and texture explosion. They can also be vegetarian or vegan, we’ve enjoyed bang xeo without egg and with mushrooms instead of pork and prawn.

Let’s take a look at cooking banh xeo, how to eat them, and what exactly is a Vietnamese crispy banh xeo pancake? Watch the video below to see how they are made and assembled.

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Banh Xeo, Vietnamese Pancakes

The video below shows us making Banh Xeo at a cooking class in Hoi An Vietnam along with eating bang xeo, assembling the dish, at a restaurant in Hoi An that is famous for its banh xeo. Is it the best banh xeo in Hoi An, possibly.

What are Banh Xeo?

Making Bahn Xeo Vietnamese Pancakes
Banh Xeo mass production at the famous Ba Le Well restaurant in Hoi An Vietnam. In this case the crispy banh xeo are pre-made and reheated in the pan with omelette. The chef here has 12 banh xeo stoves and pans cooking at once to feed diners their excellent set menu.

Banh xeo is a cold weather comfort food dish that’s as delicious as it is surprising. There’s just something about banh xeo that makes it out of this world.

When we first tasted banh xeo we couldn’t imagine how wrapping them in thin rice paper could possibly enhance them, but it certainly does. It’s another textural dimension on top of the extra crispy pancake.

The crispness comes from the rice flour used in the pancake mix, coconut, not dairy milk, being the liquid ingredient.

Hoi An Ba Le Well Restaurant
Again at Hoi An’s Ba Le Well. The banh xeo are said to be the best in Hoi An and come to the table along with barbecued pork and whole prawn spring rolls, all of which must be wrapped in rice paper along with leaves, herbs and vegetables.

Each banh xeo holds a few bean sprouts along with a couple of plump prawns and a few slivers of finely cut pork. Overstuffing this pancake would not improve it. Vegetarian versions we’ve enjoyed contained mushroom slices in place of pork and prawn.

As with all Vietnamese dishes, the balance is perfect just the way it is. Add leaves and herbs, particularly mint, and dip in the sweet, sour, hot fish sauce.  Amazing!

How to Eat Banh Xeo?

Cut your folded banh xeo pancake into manageable sized pieces and lay it flat on a piece of rice paper. Using chopsticks, select leaves, and herbs and lay these on top. Roll the pancake into a tight wrap ( this takes some practice!) dip into the sauce and eat.

What to Serve With Banh Xeo?

Banh Xeo must be served with a selection of leaves, lettuce and mint being our minimum requirements, along with thin, crispy rice paper to form the wraps and the correct dipping sauce. The sauce is composed of fish sauce, sugar, lime, garlic and red pepper of chili to taste.

How to Make Banh Xeo Extra Crispy?

Vietnamese pancakes at Hoi An market
Banh xeo cooking at Hoi An’s central market.

It’s in the cooking time and the temperature of the oil. Don’t add your banh xeo until the oil is hot enough to bubble a chopstick, then cook for longer than you would expect. The sizzle is in the name ( xeo) and the crispness comes with long cooking as demonstrated in the video.

Where to Get Bahn Xeo Mix

You can buy Bahn Xeo or Vietnamese pancake mix online or at your local Asian grocers. Amazon seem to be out of stock due to the current crisis, sorry. But Banh Xeo mix simply contains rice flour (2 parts), wheat flour (1part) and turmeric powder for the golden colour. Then add coconut cream, water, salt and some green onion tops. It’s not hard to make banh xeo from scratch. Rice flour is available here.

People have been asking which wrappers to use. A reader suggested the rice paper wrappers below ( see comments section) for banh xeo use. I haven’t tried these.

Links for the UK and USA are below, there is a similar product here for Australia , but check the price. A very hard wrapper will not work, it needs to be thin and flexible so as not to crack when you wrap. You do not soak wrappers for banh xeo use.

Bahn Xeo are absolutely one of our new favourite things, we’ve eaten hundreds from several different restaurants and never had a bad one. We hope you have fun making and eating your bahn xeo. If you’d like to read more about Vietnamese food, Hoi An food in particular, click through, or maybe you need our general Vietnam travel guide.

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Alyson is the creator of World Travel Family travel blog and is a full-time traveller, blogger and travel writer. A lifetime of wanderlust and now over 7 years on the road, 50+ countries allowed the creation of this website, for you. She has a BSc and worked in pathology before entering the travel arena and creating this website. World Travel Family Travel Blog has been helping you travel more, better and further since 2012, when Alyson and James first had this life changing idea. On this site you can find endless travel information, tips and guides plus how to travel, how to fund travel and how to start your own travel blog.

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Alice Gee

Sunday 1st of July 2018

You can use the same rice paper wrappers used for Vietnamese summer rolls. Just dip in hot or cold water in a bowl provided at the table to soften. Here is a link for round ones but we sometimes got square ones on our last trip to Vietnam.

ADMIN EDIT: Links for these wrappers are now in the body of the post. Thanks Alice.

thanhlam

Monday 6th of May 2019

You want to cook delicious pancakes to cook with charcoal not by gas.

Sarah L. Wesch

Sunday 1st of July 2018

You could use those, but they wouldn't be the same as the fresh wrappers in Hoi An! I'd did a pretty extensive search on this and learned that the fresh wrappers in Hoi An, that you can eat without soaking, aren't found outside of Vietnam due to the fact that they must be eaten within days of production.

While you certainly could use the dried Vietnamese rice wrappers found all over the world, it will be a different experience than the fresh wrappers in Central Vietnam. They are amazing, providing this thin, crisp "snap" sensation with each bite. Soaked wrappers have a different texture, but would be an acceptable substitute if you can't access the wrappers normally used.

In Southern Vietnam, they use lettuce to wrap banh xeo. That's what's commonly done here in the U.S., as much of our Vietnamese population is from the South.

There are many great reasons to visit Vietnam and Hoi An, in particular. I'd put trying this version of banh xeo on the list! It's really unique.

Sarah L Wesch

Sunday 8th of April 2018

I enjoyed banh xeo when I was visiting Hoi An and Da Nang last month. I'm having trouble finding the wrappers for banh xeo now that I'm back in the U.S. When you buy the wrappers in Vietnam, what is the name for them? Any tips you have on finding them online would be really welcome.

Take care!

Alyson Long for World Travel Family

Monday 9th of April 2018

I don't know sorry Sarah, there are loads of different types of rice paper. My husband ( he's a chef) may know but he's not here right now, will ask. If we can find them online we can add a link. Best wishes,