I first discovered Banh Xeo whilst attending a cooking class at the Morning Glory cooking school in Hoi An. I have dreamt about it ever since.
In February 2013, I met my family in Vietnam for a 3 week holiday, a 21st birthday holiday for my younger sister – a tradition that our family started for my 21st birthday in 2009.
We had said that we definitely wanted to do a cooking class while we were there, as my brother and sister are both training to be chefs and Mum, Dad and I, just love good food.
We heard Hoi An was the place to get your cook on, so after a bit of research, we found the Morning Glory cookery school, run by a Hoi An local, Ms Vy.
Ms Vy is an extremely passionate chef, and is renowned throughout Vietnam and other countries for her famous Hoi An restaurants and some of the best pastries in the country. She also featured on Gordon Ramsay’s hit tv series – Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape, Vietnam, I knew I had seen her somewhere!
After a lovely morning biking round the countryside, through rice paddies and visiting the one place where the famous Cao Lau noodles get made, we arrived at the Morning Glory cooking school and were divided into two groups – my parents in one, and my brother, sister and I in another. We were a bit disappointed as we would’ve liked to stay with them, but decided to leave it as we were still going to enjoy it either way.
After sitting down, we looked up and there she was! Ms Vy was taking our class! And we were in the front row. So cool. We didn’t care anymore that we weren’t with the parents. (Sorry Mum and Dad)
We were told we were to cook 5 dishes, Cabbage parcel soup, BBQ chicken with lime leave, fresh spring rolls, mango salad and the recipe that I have adapted – Banh Xeo – the crispy savoury pancake.
Everything was equally amazing, but I was most inspired by the Banh Xeo recipe with it’s mung bean and rice pancake batter, being gluten-free, I would be able to eat this at home.
It was crispy, crunchy, savoury, sweet, every bite made you want to go back for more. I love the Vietnamese addition of herbs and sour fruits to provide texture, flavour, nutrition and acidity.
So, it’s now been 7 months since my first Banh Xeo experience and I finally got round to trying out the recipe that we were taught. The batter we used was made up of Mung Beans and Rice, which you soak separately over night, then drain, rinse and add water to and blend to form a fine paste. I did all of the above, but unfortunately after straining all the tiny bits that were left through a pillow case (I didn’t have a cheese cloth) the batter was too thin, and it didn’t hold up in the pan. Thankfully I did a test pancake before adding all the good bits! I adapted the batter recipe by using gram flour and coconut milk and it was super tasty, and had a wonderful texture! Yay for me for making do!
Here is my adapted recipe below, please excuse the pictures, a camera is on my wishlist, but for now I am using my phone.
(Makes 8 small pancakes, or 4 dinner plate size – depending on the size of your frying pan, the smaller the better)
100g gram flour
1 can coconut milk (preferably one with no additives)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp spring onions, green part only, sliced finely
8 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
16 slices of pork shoulder, sliced finely
16 small prawns
200g bean sprouts
8 sheets (or 4) of rice paper – I used these: (see image below)
2 cups mixed herbs
8 green banana slices
8 star fruit slices (optional if you can find them)
Sweet and Sour sauce
– 1 tbsp lime juice
– 1 tbsp white sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp fish sauce
– 2 tsp water
– 1 tsp mild red chilli and garlic finely sliced and pounded
Put the lime sugar and sugar in a bowl and dissolve. Add fish sauce, water and chilli and garlic mix.
In a large bowl, sift gram flour, and mix together with salt and turmeric. Add full can of coconut milk and whisk together ensuring there are no lumps. Add more water if needed. Add spring onions.
In the smallest fry pan you can find, heat 1 tbsp oil.
Place 2 slices of pork in one half of the pan (if it is a small one, or double if you are making four), cook for 10 secs on each side. Then, on the other side of the pan, add 2 or 4 prawns.
Ladle in a small amount of batter mix and tilt to distribute evenly, just enough to coat the pan.
Fry for about 2 mins, you want the bottom to start to brown and the outside to start crispening. Mmmmmmmm… If you need, you can add more oil, but I found with this recipe, and my non stick pan, mine were crispy as ever and additional oil was not needed.
Place a small handful of bean sprouts in the middle of the Banh Xeo, cover, and cook for a further minute.
While this is steaming, wet your rice paper on one side with a damp cloth…
Then, remove the Banh Xeo from the pan and place on the softened rice paper. Add the herbs, green banana, and star fruit together, and roll up and serve with the dipping sauce. Yum!!