Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Mom Series: Banh Xeo

Banh xeo are Vietnamese-style crepes made of a rice flour batter. They're supposed to be delicate and crunchy, filled with mung beans, pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts.

The materials are laid out by the stove. The pan is hot and the crepes must stay thin, so everything needs to be added swiftly and smoothly.

The batter, which is made with rice flour. The final product is actually yellow, but there are no eggs in the batter. It's also very thin, keeping the shell crispy and not doughy.

In the pan, the mung beans need a while to cook or else they will be hard. The extra time crisps up the shell, with the moisture from the mung beans and bean sprouts keeping the shell from burning. Also, the moisture keeps the shell pliant enough to fold. The dish should be crispy, but not so much so that it breaks when folded.

The finished product, which is cut into pieces and wrapped with lettuce and herbs. Then, it's dipped in nuoc nam, or fish sauce. Mom's version has lots of lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, chili, and shredded carrots.

Here's a video of Mom making it. It's all in the wrist. The shrimp and pork slices are sauteed first. Then, the batter is poured on and swirled to maximize coverage. Any holes are patched with a little pour of batter. Lastly, the mung beans and bean sprouts are put on top. The lid is put on in the end to steam the beans and sprouts.

This dish is near-impossible to find and the restaurants that carry it usually don't do it well. I'm glad I can get them at Bistro Mom.

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