Vietnam is known for its diverse and delicious cuisine, and one dish that stands out among the rest is banh xeo. This savory pancake has a fascinating history and has become a staple in Vietnamese cuisine. In this blog post, we will delve into the development of banh xeo, exploring its origins, ingredients, regional variations, and its popularity both within Vietnam and around the world.
Banh xeo has its roots in Central Vietnam, specifically in the city of Hue. The dish is believed to have been created during the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century. “Banh” means cake or pancake, while “xeo” refers to the sizzling sound when the batter is poured onto a hot skillet. Originally, banh xeo was only enjoyed by the noble classes and was considered a luxurious delicacy.
The main components of banh xeo are the rice flour batter and the filling. The batter is made by mixing rice flour, turmeric powder, coconut milk, water, and sometimes beer. This mixture is left to ferment for a few hours, resulting in a light and crispy pancake when cooked. The filling typically consists of shrimp, pork belly, bean sprouts, and green onions. These ingredients add a combination of flavors and textures to the dish.
While banh xeo originated in Central Vietnam, it has spread throughout the country and has been adapted to suit regional preferences. In the southern region, such as Ho Chi Minh City, banh xeo is larger in size and served with a variety of herbs, lettuce leaves, and dipping sauce. The central region, including Hue, maintains the traditional recipe but often adds minced pork or beef to the filling. In the north, particularly Hanoi, the batter is thinner and the pancakes are smaller, resembling more of a crepe.
Banh xeo has gained significant popularity beyond Vietnam, thanks to the country’s growing diaspora and increased tourism. Vietnamese restaurants around the world now offer this delightful pancake, often with their own creative twists. Moreover, banh xeo has also influenced other cuisines, with some fusion dishes incorporating banh xeo flavors and concepts.
In recent years, banh xeo has undergone further innovation, with chefs experimenting with various fillings and presentations. Vegetarian and vegan versions have emerged, featuring ingredients like mushrooms, tofu, or even jackfruit. Some modern interpretations serve banh xeo in a roll form, with the pancake carefully wrapped in rice paper alongside fresh herbs and vegetables.
When traveling to Vietnam, experiencing authentic banh xeo is a must. Locals often frequent street food stalls or small family-run shops known for their expertise in preparing this dish. Being able to witness the process of making banh xeo and savoring it hot off the skillet adds to the overall culinary adventure.