In search of bánh xèo:
While there are many delicious things to eat in Vietnam, there’s no doubt bánh xèo is my favourite street snack.
Bánh xèo is prepared slightly different throughout Vietnam, especially the south, specifically Sài Gòn is known to produce large-sized bánh xèo.
Huge signage reading bánh xèo stood on either side of the lane. As you walk past the open-air kitchen, which consists not more than a ring of coal stoves, a string of low tables and plastic stools.
The family at 46A Đinh Công Tráng have been cooking bánh xèo since 1945. Lệ Thị ĐỦ and her sister learned the art from their mother, who lived in Quy Nhơn, a coastal city in Bình Định Province in central Vietnam. Seventy-three-year-old ĐỦ still cooks there with her niece, Nguyễn Thị Lệ Thủy.
ĐỦ cook her pancakes by frying onions, pork, and shrimps over a very high flame. She then pours in just the right amount of the rice flour as well as turmeric batter and swirls it about in the frying pan. “You have to be very careful with the consistency of the batter, or it won’t turn out right,” said Thủy. Her Aunt will then throw in bean sprouts and mug mung beans onto the batter, adding more oil and lift the edges of pancake to prevent it from sticking onto the pan. The word xèo comes from the sound of the pancake as it sizzles away in the oil.
Like a lot of southern food, bánh xèo is truly interactive. You can roll your pancake up in lettuce or mustard green leaves, adding whatever fresh herbs you fancy and top it off with slices of green banana, starfruit, pineapple or cucumber.
In fact, you can choose your own ideal combination of fruits, herbs, leaves and then dip it in nước chấm (fish sauce, vinegar, and chili). You can also work out on your preferred beer to pair while enjoying eating bánh xèo.
Besides the pancakes, Thủy and ĐỦ also serve up a range of other southern specialties, such as chạo tôm (prawn grilled on sugarcane), chả giò (fried spring rolls), cánh gà chiên tỏi (garlic fried chicken wings), gỏi cuốn (fresh spring rolls) and cá nướng (grilled fish).
The eatery has loyal followers among the Saigonese as well as local expats. However, apart from the Japanese, few foreign tourists has stumbled across this bánh xèo alley.
The alley is so well-known that if you got into a taxi and asked the driver to go straight up Hai Bà Trưng, passing the park, he might ask you “Anh đi ăn bánh xèo ah?”-are you off to eat bánh xèo?
Quán Bánh Xèo 46A
46 Đinh Công Tráng
Tân Định, Quận 1
Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Tel: +84 (08) 3824 1110
Opening Hours: Daily 10 am to 9 pm