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Banh Xeo – homeland flavored food

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:47 am

Out of several well-known Vietnamese traditional foods like Pho (noodles), Cha Gio (mince roll) and Saigon bread; Banh Xeo (sizzling cake) has been chosen to be representative for Vietnamese food in the vote “Ho Chi Minh City – 100 interesting things,” hosted by the city Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism. 

Banh Xeo path

No one can remember how long Banh Xeo been presented in Vietnam’s southern region. Maybe, it was from the 1940s, or the previous century. Banh Xeo is the rice pancake folded in half and filled with shrimp, meat and soya bean sprouts. Originally, Banh Xeo was sold as a popular food in markets from rural to urban areas.


                             Southern Banh Xeo

In the early 1980s, the number of restaurants in Saigon sharply diminished, including those selling Banh Xeo. This was due to many difficulties Vietnam suffered from years of war with both France and the United States.

Not until the middle of the decade, restaurants began selling a kind of cake that looked like Banh Xeo. It was made in much smaller pans, just about one fourth of the southern versions. The ingredients included rice flour, tiny shrimps, half fat and half-lean pork, bean sprouts and onions. The cakes were served with vegetables and prepared nuoc mam (fish sauce) mixed with lemon, garlic and chili.

Most of the sellers were from the central region, the cakes thus were called Banh Xeo Mien Trung (central rice pancakes), and it was a favorite food for many Saigon citizens at that time.

Since the 1990s, southern Banh Xeo returned with famous brand names such as Banh Xeo Dinh Cong Trang and Banh Xeo A Phu in Saigon. By 2007, An La Ghien was born with a large scope and professional service style to introduce southern Banh Xeo and other popular Vietnamese foods.

One year later, Muoi Xiem pancakes from the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho were introduced in HCMC.

Attracting sizzling sounds 

The best time to eat Banh Xeo is when they are hot, straight from the pan, while the heat is still evaporating the yellow of the pancakes. Xeo Xeo (sizzling) is the sound of fried rice batter on hot pans.

             Banh Xeo sizzles on the hot pans

While central Banh Xeo is placed in the center of the hot pan and looks a bit thick, the southern pancake covers a big pan with its edge very thin and crispy, containing hardly any oil.

Besides fresh tiny shrimps, half-fat and half lean meat, bean sprouts and onion, the southern Banh Xeo’s stuffing includes steamed green beans.

Up to each season, southern pancake’s stuffing would be diversified with mushrooms, dien dien (Sesbania bispinosa) flowers, and co hu dua (the youngest pith of a coconut tree top).

The specific characteristic of Banh Xeo is that it is eaten with your hand. Customers tear a piece of the pancake off and wrap it in fresh mustard green leaves together with five to six kinds of herbs, which help to reduce the oiliness. People who eat this food say the mellow aromas of the salt, the sweetness, the sourness and the fat sway them to eat more. Banh Xeo is a great dish to enjoy, especially in rainy days.

Source: SGGP

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