Monday, August 20, 2012

Hanoi Street Food - Bánh xèo

A few weeks ago on the occasion of our last class with her, my Vietnamese teacher took us out for Bánh xèo, otherwise known as Vietnamese pancake.

You may recall that when I had the Vietnamese girls from the staff class I was teaching, we attempted to make bánh xèo, but although it tasted good, it still wasn't right. (Check out that post here) Well I can't tell you that I've succeeded in making it, but now I know a place I can have it that's only about a 15 minute walk from home! Yay!

This place is on a fairly major, crowded, crazy road, but is tucked up inside a house so you're away from the madness. It starts with a sign outside that looks like this...

....and this guy beneath the sign cooking the bánh xèo. Notice that he has several pans so he can cook five at a time!

He starts by pouring a TON of oil into the pan and waiting until it's really hot, then pours in some batter and swirls it around to spread it throughout the pan. (The xèo part of the name has something to do with the sizzling sound the batter makes when it hits the hot oil!) After it's cooked a bit, he adds bean sprouts.

When it's cooked a bit more, he adds slivers of pork and little shrimp, cooks it some more, then folds it over a couple of times.

It then gets put onto a plastic plate, carried through this dodgy looking hallway and up the even more dodgy stairwell....

....and into this little room.

The curtain hanging at the top of the photo hides a sort of loft, which is where the owners live. Yes, we were eating in their living room, complete with pictures of the grandbabies on the wall!

You then cut the bánh xèo into pieces with a pair of scissors, and wrap a chunk of it in a piece of rice paper with some greens.

You can also order nem lụi to go with your bánh xèo. Nem lụi is minced pork mixed with spices and grilled on bamboo skewers (or sometimes lemongrass, but not here), which they then cut off the skewers for you.

So when you've got your rice paper loaded up with greens, bánh xèo, and nem lụi, you roll it up and dip it in nước chấm, a sauce made from lime, sugar, fish sauce, and chili.

The soft meat, the fresh greens, the tangy sauce, and especially the crunch of the crispy pancake is absolutely irresistible! Yum!

My teacher Lena and my classmate Yoshi enjoying some bánh xèo and beer.
 For anyone in Hanoi who wants to try this place out, it's at 125 Đội Cấn. Enjoy!

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