This Vietnamese banh xeo recipe makes crispy crêpes filled with savoury minced pork and bean sprouts. Traditionally eaten as a street food snack, these Central Vietnam-style yellow turmeric-tinted pancakes should be wrapped in fragrant herbs and leafy lettuce, and dunked in nuoc cham dipping sauce. They need to be eaten immediately before they start to soften.
One of the things that I adore about Vietnamese food, as well as Cambodian food, is that firstly, fresh fragrant herbs and healthy greens feature so prominently in both cuisines. There’s a love of wrapping and rolling fried snacks in aromatic herbs and crispy lettuce to provide balance and contrast and lighten up what could otherwise be heavy food. Once rolled, these fresh and fried snacks are typically dunked into a deliciously funky dipping sauce.
Of all the street food snacks that are rolled and wrapped, the one that I most love to cook and eat at home is this Vietnamese banh xeo recipe – or correctly, bánh xèo – which makes crispy turmeric-tinted yellow crêpes that are filled with savoury minced pork and bean sprouts, wrapped with lettuce leaves and fragrant herbs, and dunked into a fish sauce-based condiment.
There are many different types of Vietnamese banh xeo but before I tell you more about these ‘sizzling crêpes’, as the Vietnamese call them, I have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-supported. If you’ve used and enjoyed our recipes, particularly our Vietnamese and Cambodian recipes, please consider supporting Grantourismo by becoming a supporter of our epic, original, first-of-its-kind Cambodian cuisine history and cookbook on Patreon, which also covers some Vietnamese food history. You can become a patron for as little as US$2, $5 or $10 a month.
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Now let me tell you about this Vietnamese banh xeo recipe for crispy pancakes filled with savoury minced pork and bean sprouts.
Vietnamese Banh Xeo Recipe for Crispy Turmeric Crepes Filled with Savoury Minced Pork and Sprouts
This Vietnamese banh xeo recipe makes the turmeric-tinted filled pancakes from Central Vietnam in what is sometimes translated as the ‘middle region style’. Travel around Vietnam and you’ll come across many different types of Vietnamese banh xeo.
Head over the border to Cambodia – when borders open to travellers again! – and you’ll also find these crispy yellow pancakes here, where they’re called banh chao, and are larger, wafer-thin, and lighter on the fillings.
There are numerous theories as to where these yellow pancakes came from and how they travelled around the region, and I’m currently exploring that fascinating subject in my Cambodia culinary history project.
One theory is that these tasty yellow pancakes originated in the ancient kingdom of Champa, which once ruled Vietnam from Hue south to the Mekong River Delta, and were the main rival to Cambodia’s Khmer Empire, despite a 7th-century stone Cham inscription telling us that a Cham prince married a Khmer princess.
Battles between the Chams and Khmers are depicted in the vivid bas reliefs on the Bayon temple at Angkor Thom and yet we know from both Cham and Khmer stone inscriptions that the legendary Khmer Empire ruler, King Jayavarman VII, spent time in Champa, fought alongside one Cham faction that warred against another, and was said to have “conquered the earth” according to Cham inscriptions dating to the 1220s.
There were two waves of Cham migration to Cambodia, which is supported by the fact that Cambodia’s Cham people have two different dialects and different religious practices. The ‘modern’ Chams who settled in Kampong Cham are Muslim – so definitely do not fill their turmeric pancakes with minced pork. Their preference is seafood, particular shrimp, which is also popular in the Mekong Delta, although there it’s combined with pork.
In Central Vietnam, you’ll come across banh xeo stuffed with pork belly, shrimp and bean sprouts. I’ve sampled the turmeric pancakes filled with big plump sweet prawns as many times as I’ve had it with the tiny shrimp – fresh and dried – which are popular in Cambodia.
Yet in Saigon, at a simple Cham-owned street food eatery in District 3 called Phan Rang Thap Cham, I tried small banh xeo filled with calamari and bean sprouts, and served with a peanut condiment as well as nuoc mam cham, the usual funky fish sauce-based dipping sauce, which I was encouraged to mix together.
There they didn’t eat the crepes with lettuce and herbs, but on their own with chopsticks, which they used to dip them into the sauce. A zingy sour green mango salad was served on the side. These little yellow pancakes resembled another Cham specialty, banh knot, which belong to the banh can family, and are thicker and fried in small pans.
Tips to Making Vietnamese Banh Xeo
I only have a few tips to making this Vietnamese banh xeo recipe for crispy turmeric pancakes filled with savoury minced pork and bean sprouts. ‘Banh’ typically refers to rice flour cakes in Vietnam but historically referred to something made from rice flour, so rice flour is key to these pancakes.
Do not attempt these with any other kind of flour or you won’t get that crispiness that you want. Along with high heat, a heavy pan, skillet or Dutch Oven lid will also help with that crispiness that’s so desirable in these Vietnamese banh xeo. But having said that, they won’t stay crispy for long, which is why you need to serve them immediately.
My Vietnamese banh xeo recipes calls for a savoury pork mince filling, however, traditionally the pork mince is quite plain as Vietnamese cooks believe you’ll get enough flavour from the dipping sauce. If you prefer to go traditional, just season the pork with salt and pepper.
Do make sure you prepare the nuoc cham dipping sauce early so that the flavours meld together, and also ensure you have your lettuce herbs washed and dried and ready to be served, so you can plate the banh xeo immediately. We do recommend using a Vietnamese fish sauce as their flavour profile is very different to Thai fish sauces we normally use.
Vietnamese Banh Xeo Recipe
- 80 g rice flour
- 20 g plain flour
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp salt
- 200 ml coconut milk
- 4 tsps scallions thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 2 bird’s eye chillies finely chopped
- 6 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- neutral cooking oil
- 4 shallots finely sliced
- 300 g pork mince
- ½ tsp salt pepper
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp ground star anise
- 25 g dried shrimp soaked and drained
- 200 g bean sprouts blanched
- lettuce leaves
- fresh mint
- fresh coriander
- fresh basil
- In a large mixing bowl, make the banh xeo pancake batter by combining the flours, turmeric, ½ tsp salt, and coconut milk until smooth, ensuring there are no lumps of flour. Set aside to rest; if you’re in a warm climate or your kitchen is warm, rest in the fridge.
- Make the nuoc cham dipping sauce by stirring the garlic, chillies, fish sauce, and sugar in a small bowl and setting aside so that the flavours meld together.
- Prepare the banh xeo filling by frying the shallots in the neutral cooking oil in a frying pan until translucent, then add the minced pork, drained dried shrimps, salt, pepper, and star anise, and blanched bean sprouts, and fry until the mince is cooked. Try the mixture and adjust seasoning to your taste.
- To make the banh xeo, heat a tablespoon of neutral cooking oil in a heavy frying pan with a flat 20cm-wide base. Test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a little batter in; if it sizzles it’s ready. Scoop out the fried batter.
- Use a ladle to pour a layer of batter into the pan so the base is completely covered, sprinkle a teaspoon of scallions across the pancake, and cover the pan with a lid, to let batter cook for a couple of minutes.
- Remove the lid, scoop a quarter of the minced pork mixture onto half the crepe, then when you see the edges starting to brown, gently run a spatula, turner or fish slice beneath the edge of the pancake to ensure it’s not stuck, fold one half of the pancake over the half with filling, then slide the banh xeo onto one half of a large plate. And repeat.
- Garnish the plates with lettuce leaves and fresh fragrant herbs, such as mint, basil and coriander, and serve with the dipping sauce, provided to guests in individual dishes.
- To eat, slice the banh xeo into pieces, lay a lettuce leaf in the palm of your hand, pop some springs of fresh herbs on the leaf, along with a piece of banh xeo (use hands of chopsticks), roll it up into a packet and dunk it into the dipping sauce.
Please do let us know if you make this Vietnamese banh xeo recipe for crispy crêpes filled with savoury minced pork and bean sprouts as we’d love to hear how it turns out for you.