Ban Xeo (Vietnamese savoury pancake)

One of the Inner West’s biggest drawing cards is its Vietnamese culture. From verdant green grocers, to epic queues around the block for ‘the good’ Banh Mi, Vietnamese culture has pervaded our corner of the universe with the delicate fragrance of fresh herbs and spice.

Ban xeo is possibly the most perfect savoury pancake in existence. A crisp, golden pancake, traditionally stuffed with prawns, slivers of pork, bean sprouts and an abundance of fresh herbs, it’s light, textural and really simple to make at home. Another great thing about this dish is that you can substitute the filling ingredients according to your taste, or whatever fresh veggies or leftover cold meats you might have in the fridge. The essentials, however, are fresh herbs like mint, perilla or Thai basil, and nuoc cham to spoon over the top. My version goes vego, making use of new season broad beans and a few mushrooms.

Ingredients

The batter:
1 cup rice flour
¼ cup potato flour
2 tbsp corn flour
1 cup of water
1 tin of coconut milk
A generous pinch of salt
A pinch white pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric

Nuoc cham dipping sauce:
(Can be found ready-made at most supermarkets)
The juice of 2 limes
¼ cup fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 red chilli, finely sliced
A few ribbons of carrot, peeled with a vegetable peeler and slice into fine ribbons
1 tbsp water

To serve:
Fresh herbs like mint, coriander, Thai basil or perilla leaves picked
2 white mushrooms, finely sliced
6 broadbean pods, beans removed, blanched and peeled
¼ Spanish onion, very finely sliced
½ long red chilli, finely sliced
Rice bran or peanut oil for frying

Method

1. Mix the batter ingredients together and whisk until smooth. Set aside, covered, in the fridge for an hour or two. Meanwhile, mix together the ingredients for your nuoc cham. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved and adjust seasoning to taste. It should be a balance of sweet, sour and salty.

2. Mix together the filling ingredients in a bowl with a tablespoon of the nuoc cham dressing.

3. Remove the batter from the fridge and set aside. Heat a frying pan to a high heat and add 2 tablespoons of peanut or rice bran oil into the pan. Once smoking hot (and not before), pour a ladle of the pancake mixture into the pan. Swirl around until the batter has evenly covered the bottom of the pan. You’re aiming for a super thin, crisp pancake; so only pour in enough to just coat the pan’s surface. After about 20 seconds, use a spatula or fish slice to loosen the edges and give the pan a shake, to loosen the pancake from the surface. Once golden and crisp, flip and cook the other side.

4. Slide each pancake onto some kitchen paper to absorb excess oil. Plate the pancake and fill one half with the salad mixture. Fold in half and serve immediately, with a small dish of nuoc cham, for extra pouring.