Have you ever had bánh xèo? These sizzling, chewy, crispy Vietnamese crêpes are made from rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric – which gives them that brilliant yellow color – and are surprisingly easy to cook at home.For years, I feared making bánh xèo (pronounced bahn say-oh) because the memory of my grandmother's was so strong and perfect. No restaurant version could ever approximate hers and certainly my homemade versions wouldn't, either! But then I gave them a try and though I may never be able to match the memory of my bà nội, bánh xèo have become one of my favorite at-home meals – savory, fresh, and spectacularly satisfying. I'm very glad I started making my own and hope you'll give the recipe a try, too!
A note on the filling: The mung beans are not required, but they are common to southern Vietnamese bánh xèo and I like the extra texture and flavor they provide. Feel free to omit them if you don't have access or want to make a quicker version. I also like using chewy, marinated, baked tofu (store-bought or homemade) and sometimes shiitake mushrooms. However, you could also use fried tofu or or cooked pork or shrimp for a non-vegetarian version.
A note on the sauce: Traditionally, bánh xèo is served with a sauce called nưởc chấm, which includes nưởc mắm, or fish sauce. This is a quick vegetarian version using soy sauce. If you want, substitute real fish sauce or vegetarian fish sauce (available at Asian markets) for the soy sauce.
Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Crêpes) with Tofu
1/4 cup split yellow mung beans
4 ounces baked tofu, sliced (variation: 2 ounces tofu and 2 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms)
2 scallions (white and green parts), chopped
Several sprigs of cilantro
1 cup mung bean sprouts
3/4 cup rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
2/3 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Several large leaves of lettuce
Large handful of mixed herbs (Thai basil, mint, cilantro; tiá tô or Vietnamese perilla)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons water
1 clove garlic, crushed
For the filling
Cover the mung beans with water and soak overnight or at least 4 hours. Drain. Steam in a basket over simmering water until tender, about 20 minutes.
Prepare the tofu (and mushrooms, if using), scallions, cilantro, and mung bean sprouts and set aside.
For the crêpes
In a bowl, whisk together the rice flour, salt, turmeric, coconut milk, and water to form a smooth batter.
Heat a teaspoon of oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu (and mushrooms, if using) and cook until heated through. Remove and set aside.
Wipe the oil out of the pan and return to medium heat with a fresh teaspoon of oil. Pour half of the batter in the pan and swirl to distribute evenly. Sprinkle half of the mung beans and scallions over the batter. Then arrange the tofu (and mushrooms, if using), cilantro, and bean sprouts over half of the crêpe. When cooked through and edges are browned, fold the crêpe over and slide onto a plate. Repeat for second crêpe.
For the greens
Prepare the greens and set aside. (May be prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.)
For the sauce
In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for sauce. Set aside. (May be prepared ahead of time kept in the refrigerator.)
Serve as an appetizer to share or a main dish. To eat, wrap a piece of the crêpe into a lettuce leaf with a few herbs. Dip into the sauce and enjoy!
Related: Recipe: Bánh Mì with Lemongrass Tofu
(Images: Emily Ho)