Best Ever Bánh Xèo

Chicken Shawarma with hot sauce and garlic sauce

The Magic

While this dish is often referred to as a savoury Vietnamese pancake, it’s really more of a crispy crêpe. It can come with all kinds of fillings, but the best one we’ve ever had was also the simplest: small shrimp and fresh beans sprouts.  The crepe is made using rice flour batter; according to Wikipedia, the name refers to the sound the batter makes as it’s poured into the hot oil. 

The First Taste

We were first introduced to this dish by Le and Karen, the two sisters that own and operate Seasoned Fusion, a fabulous Vietnamese restaurant in Saskatoon, Canada. Born and raised in Ho Chi Minh City (they still prefer to call it Saigon) they were excited to learn we are open to trying authentic ethnic food. Even though Bánh Xèo wasn’t on the menu when we came in for lunch on a slow day, they insisted on making it for us anyway. It was a delicious revelation!

How It’s Served and Eaten

The dish always arrives with a side of lettuce and herbs. The herbs might include cilantro, shiso, sweet basil,  and mint.  Sometimes you’ll get julienne vegetables on the side: cucumber, carrot, and pineapple. You will always get rice paper.  

Bánh Xèo can be as big as a serving platter or as small as a side plate. They are always cut up, either by guests or staff to fit more easily onto the rice paper.  You place a piece of Bánh Xèo on the dry rice paper, layer on herbs and vegetables to your liking, then roll it as tight as you can.  Sometimes the rice paper cracks, so we like to wrap the outside with some lettuce. The roll is then dipped in Nước Chấm – salty fish sauce with vinegar, garlic, sugar and chilis.

The “Best of” Discovery

We had been on a six month trip across Southeast Asia.  At this particular juncture, we’d just spent a couple of weeks in Northern Vietnam where most days were rainy and/or cold. Hue, Vietnam’s ancient imperial city, was no exception. It poured day after day. Then one precious night, it stopped.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally enjoy some street food and went wandering the roads near our homestay.

Bánh Xèo Làng Chuồn  (Which translates to Bánh Xèo of Chuồn Village) had a person in every one of its tiny plastic chairs. Obviously, we had to eat here. We took a walk around the block and returned to find two seats available.  Using trusty Google Translate, we let the ladies cooking and serving know we’d eat anything they served us, since there was no easily translatable menu.

The Bánh Xèo they served was so amazing we ordered a second round. Honestly, we could have had a third and fourth.  The crepe was a bit thicker which gave it a deeply satisfying crunch, and it seemed more flavourful than most we had. Guessing by the unusually bright yellow colour, it was probably flavoured with tumeric.  This was the first time we were served chrysanthemum greens as part of the herb mixture. We piled on some of that as well as the basil and cilantro. The dipping sauce was a particularly good balance of salty, sweet, spicy and sour. The shrimp were tender and had a bit of sweetness to them as well. 

To Le and Karen, we will always love your Bánh Xèo, and will be forever grateful for the introduction. But these ladies in Hue make the best version we’ve ever had!

If you ever find yourself in Hue, you’ll have to hunt this spot down and eat until you can eat no more.

16.46644° N, 107.59543° E

Like so many good street food options, this spot isn’t listed on google maps or any review site.
The GPS co-ordinates are approximate as we had some serious “floaty dot” on our Gmaps when we tried to pin point our location.

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