The cake is named after its sound when cook (like sizzling). From the first look, the pancake give people thought of a giant omelets stuffed with lots of fixings. But despite their golden yellow color, egg is not on the ingredient list for these snacks. The color comes from dashes of turmeric powder—the more, the yellower. Wheat is not part of the equation for these pancakes either. The base is rice flour, though those with gluten sensitivities should check to ensure no wheat flour has been mixed in before ordering.
The cooking of the pancakes starts with a spoon of fresh battered onions, chopped shrimp, and pork in a big pan. Over that, a thin layer of the rice flour batter is poured and as the bottom layer of the forming crepe begins to sizzle. Its name comes from this cooking phase. As that rice batter sizzles, bean sprout are added to the top, with the now crispy crepe folded over them and served.
The dish can be found on most Vietnamese restaurants and street shops around town. In Hanoi, the small restaurant lying in the lane of 29th Ton Duc Thang Street is a good choice. You would met an old couple has earn living on making Bánh Xèo for decades . There, a set of Bánh xèo with pork is priced at about 1,5 USD; with chicken at more than 2 USD. As my experience, just 2-4 sets can fill up your stomach - a cheap and interesting meal.
The appetizer turns out various edition in different region of Vietnam. In the Central region, Bánh Xèo cooks make a smaller crepe that is white in colour. In Hue, the crepes are called Bánh Khoai, which is similar to it, but smaller in size and stuffed with fennel, sour star fruit, green banana and a thick soy sauce.
In addition to selling the crepes to patrons, vendors also prepare them en masse for birthday parties and festivals. Northern preparations of Bánh Xèo are similar to the ones down south, but include special fillings like slices of Indian taro and manioc. In some regions, Bánh Xèo is prepared thick, but Southern crepes are characteristically thin, crispy and served fresh out of the frying pan. The secret to extra-thin crepes is a deep frying pan and a quick wrist to coat the frying pan with the batter before it starts to set.
The large pancakes are meant to be eaten by hand. To eat them in the Vietnamese way, you can wrap bits in lettuce leaves with herbs to taste; or serve folded, as a wrap in its own right, doubling the amount of filling with a dip in sauce bowl. The sauce contributes largely to complete the taste – a mix of Vietnamese fish sauce with sugar, vinegar, chili in secret portion.