Hanoi, the vibrant capital city of Vietnam, is renowned for its rich culinary heritage. Among the plethora of delectable dishes, Vietnamese pancakes, locally known as Banh Xeo, hold a special place in the hearts of both locals and visitors. These savory pancakes, with their crispy exterior and flavorful fillings, are a true gastronomic delight that should not be missed when exploring the local food scene in Hanoi.
The Origins and Variations of Banh Xeo
Banh Xeo is a beloved street food originating in Vietnam and gaining popularity worldwide. The name “Banh Xeo” translates to “sizzling cake” in English, referring to the sound the rice batter makes when poured onto the hot pan. While the recipe for Banh Xeo remains consistent, there are regional variations that add unique twists to this delightful dish.
In the southern regions of Vietnam, Banh Xeo is larger in size and often includes a variety of vegetables and mung beans. On the other hand, in the central regions, the pancakes are smaller and do not typically contain mung beans. Regardless of the regional variation, Banh Xeo always promises a symphony of flavors and textures.
The Essential Ingredients and Recipe
The key ingredient that gives Banh Xeo its distinct texture is rice flour. This flour provides a slightly chewy consistency that beautifully contrasts with the crispiness of the cooked side. The batter is traditionally made by mixing rice flour with water, turmeric powder for a vibrant color, and coconut milk for a hint of sweetness.
To make the pancakes, a non-stick pan is heated, and the batter is poured in, creating a thin and crispy crust. Fillings such as beef, shrimp, mushrooms, and bean sprouts are then added to the center of the pancake. The pancake is folded in half to enclose the fillings and cooked until golden brown.
The Perfect Accompaniments: Dipping Sauce and Fresh Herbs
No Banh Xeo experience is complete without the essential dipping sauce and an array of fresh herbs. The most common dipping sauce in Vietnamese cuisine is Nuoc Cham, a fish sauce-based sauce that strikes a harmonious balance between sour, sweet, and salty flavors. This sauce elevates the taste of Banh Xeo, bringing all the flavors and textures together.
When it comes to fresh herbs, Banh Xeo offers a plethora of options. Lettuce, mint, fish mint (Rau Diep Ca), sorrel (Rau Chua), Vietnamese balm (Kinh Gioi), Vietnamese perilla or purple mint (Tia To), and pickled daikon/carrots (Do Chua) are just a few of the herbs commonly served alongside Banh Xeo. These herbs not only add freshness but also enhance the overall flavor profile of the dish.
Enjoying Banh Xeo: The Art of Eating with Your Hands
While some may opt to use chopsticks, the best way to savor the flavors of Banh Xeo is by eating with your hands. Begin by placing a piece of Banh Xeo on a sheet of rice paper. Add a selection of fresh herbs, choosing from the variety available. Roll the rice paper tightly, creating a delicious and refreshing bite. With each mouthful, be sure to dip the roll into the Nuoc Cham sauce, allowing the flavors to meld together in perfect harmony.
Where to Satisfy Your Cravings for Banh Xeo in Hanoi
When in Hanoi, there are several establishments where you can indulge in the culinary delight of Banh Xeo. These local favorites are known for their exceptional taste and authentic experience. Here are a few recommendations:
- Hong Hoai’s Restaurant – Located at No. 20 Bat Dan Street, Hang Bo, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. Banh Xeo in this restaurant is a renowned eatery that offers a wide range of delicious Banh Xeo options. The crispy, flavorful pancakes paired with their unique sauce create a truly memorable dining experience. Open from 10:00 AM to 22:00 PM, this establishment is a must-visit for any Banh Xeo enthusiast.
- Banh Xeo Hang Bo – Situated at 22 Hang Bo, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Banh Xeo Hang Bo is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Here, you can relish in the simplicity and authenticity of Banh Xeo, with their pancakes boasting a perfect balance of crispiness and fillings. Open from 14:00 PM to 20:00 PM, this eatery is conveniently located and easily accessible.
- Quan An Ngon – If you’re looking for a broader selection of Vietnamese street food, including Banh Xeo, Quan An Ngon is the place to be. Located at 18 Phan Boi Chau, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, this well-known chain restaurant offers an extensive menu of local delights. The Pancake here is a highlight, showcasing the diversity and complexity of Vietnamese cuisine. Open from 11:00 AM to 9:30 PM, Quan An Ngon is a fantastic choice for those seeking an immersive culinary experience.
Embrace the Vibrant Flavors of Hanoi’s Local Food
Hanoi, with its captivating culture and rich culinary heritage, is a paradise for food lovers. Exploring the local food scene and indulging in dishes like Banh Xeo allows you to immerse yourself in the flavors of Vietnam truly. So, whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat lover, make sure to savor the mouthwatering Banh Xeo on your next visit to Hanoi. Experience the harmony of textures, flavors, and aromas that make this iconic Vietnamese pancake a delight for the senses.