Crispy Bánh Xèo (Vietnamese Crêpes) with Shrimp, Pork, and Bean Sprouts

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When Vietnamese chef Charles Phan samples bánh xèo (aka "happy pancakes") at restaurants, he often finds that they aren't crisp enough. Phan thinks the perfect savory crêpe should be lacy thin and crackly crisp. After years of dedicated experimentation, he recommends refrigerating the batter overnight, so the starches have time to relax, then cooking the crêpes in a nonstick skillet.

Crispy Vietnamese Crêpes with Shrimp, Pork and Bean Sprouts
Photo: © Quentin Bacon
Active Time:
15 mins
Chill Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
Yield:
12 crêpes

These are best served immediately, hot out of the pan.

Ingredients

Sweet and Spicy Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

  • 2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

  • 1 Thai chile, thinly sliced

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

  • 1/2 cup fish sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups water

Crêpes

  • 1/2 cup dried mung beans

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk, stirred before using

  • 2 cups white rice flour

  • 1 cup cornstarch

  • 4 cups water

  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric

  • Kosher salt

Filling

  • Vegetable oil, for pan-frying

  • 3/4 pound boneless pork loin, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, and halved lengthwise

  • 1 medium white onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

  • 3 cups bean sprouts

  • Red leaf lettuce, for serving

  • Mint leaves, for serving

Directions

Make the dipping sauce

  1. In a large mortar, pound the chopped garlic with the chile. Add the sugar and mash the ingredients to a paste, adding a few drops of the rice vinegar as needed to moisten the mixture. Pound until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the remaining rice vinegar along with the fish sauce and the water and transfer the dipping sauce to a bowl.

Make the bánh xèo batter

  1. In a small bowl, soak the dried mung beans in warm water until they are softened, about 30 minutes. Drain the beans and transfer them to a blender. Add the coconut milk and puree until very smooth.

  2. Transfer the mung bean puree to a large bowl and whisk in the white rice flour, cornstarch, water, scallions, and turmeric, and season lightly with salt. Let the batter rest for at least 20 minutes or refrigerate overnight.

Make the filling and crêpes

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Add a few slices of pork, a couple of shrimp, and a few slivers of white onion and cook for 30 seconds.

  2. Stir the batter and pour 2/3 cup of it into the pan; tilt and swirl the pan to coat the bottom with a very thin layer of batter, letting it come up the side of the pan. Scatter 1/4 cup of the bean sprouts over the bánh xèo and drizzle 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil around the edges.

  3. Cover the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until the bottom of the bánh xèo is golden and crisp, about 2 minutes.

  4. Slide the bánh xèo onto a plate. Serve with lettuce leaves, mint, and the Sweet and Spicy Vietnamese Dipping Sauce.

  5. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, serving the bánh xèo as soon as they are cooked.

Make Ahead

The dipping sauce and batter can be refrigerated overnight. Let the batter return to room temperature and stir before making the bánh xèo.

Suggested Pairing

A Vietnamese or Chinese beer would be a terrific companion for this crispy dish with its sweet and spicy sauce.

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