Vietnamese Crispy Pancakes with Pork and Prawns – Thuy Diem Pham

Bánh Xèo Miền Nam

 This is a national street food favourite! Pancake stands fill the markets of Vietnam with tantalising sounds and vibrant colours. Skilfully pan-fried over little gas burners, I would often find myself lost in admiration when stood next to a vendor, salivating at the thought of the first bite that was to follow.

This is one of those dishes where variations are found from region to region. The recipe here is the southern version; thin, crispy, large in size and eaten with plenty of fresh herbs! This is my grandpa’s favourite meal and he’s still the champion at rolling the biggest pancake lettuce wraps.

Makes 12 pancakes

    • 225g rice flour
    • 60g cornflour
    • 8g tempura flour or batter mix
    • 200ml coconut milk
    • large pinch of salt
    • 3 teaspoons granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 750ml lukewarm water
    • 6 spring onions, finely chopped
    • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the filling

    • 400g pork belly
    • 4 pinches of salt
    • 400g raw prawns, shell on
    • 2 pear squashes (optional), thinly sliced
    • 50g bean sprouts
    • 2 carrots, cut into fine matchsticks

To serve

    • 20g mint leaves
    • 20 Vietnamese mint
    • 20g Thai basil
    • 20g coriander
    • 20g perilla leaves
    • 3 baby gem lettuces, leaves separated
    • 300ml Classic Fish Dipping Sauce (page 28)

Prepare the pork belly. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil over a high heat. Add the pork belly, along with 2 pinches of salt. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, drain and plunge in iced water to cool. Slice thinly.

Rinse the pan and add fresh water. Bring the water to the boil over a high heat and add the prawns and 2 pinches of salt. Lower the heat and simmer for 4 minutes, then drain the prawns and plunge in iced water to cool. Remove the shells and devein.

Let’s get started on the pancakes. Combine the flours, batter mix, coconut milk, salt, sugar, turmeric and water in a bowl and stir to form a smooth batter. Add the chopped spring onions and place in the fridge for 1 hour to set.

Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a small non-stick pan over a high heat.

Add a few slices of pork belly and pieces of prawn, then ladle over just enough of the pancake batter to form a thin layer over the surface of the pan. Add a small handful of the vegetables, lower the heat, put the lid on and cook for 2½ minutes.

Remove the lid and maintain the low heat for a further 3½ minutes, until the pancake has that signature golden-yellow colour. Use a fish slice to fold the pancake, over the filling, into a half-moon. Take off the heat and it’s ready to eat.

Repeat the process with the remaining batter and filling ingredients.

Have your platter of herbs and dipping sauce ready and let the rolling begin. The pancakes are best served wrapped in as many herbs as possible, then dipped in as much sauce as you can scoop… Well, that’s the advice from my household anyway.

Recipes and images from The Little Viet Kitchen by Thuy Diem Pham, Bloomsbury, RRP$ 39.99

The Little Viet Kitchen – Thuy Diem Pham

Thuy takes us on a voyage back through her childhood living in Vietnam, moving to the UK, the love of her parents and grandparents and the influences they have had on her life, Vietnamese food culture, and her own pantry food philosophy.

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