Bánh xèo, or mung bean crêpes stuffed with tofu, vegetables and herbs (Vietnam)

Vietnam is a quite long but mostly very narrow country located in the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. A former colony of France, the country suffered a a war from the 1950s/1960s until 1975, which killed millions of people, also many in the neighbouring countries. (For some reasons, many Americans think the U.S. “won” the Vietnam war, which isn’t true, even if we exclude the fact that there are no winners in wars).

Despite the relatively small geographical size of Vietnam it houses almost 100 million people and an estimated 16% of world’s species. It is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Most Vietnamese follow a “triple religion” blending Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, many more as a philosophy than a religion.

The Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the healthiest cuisines around, based on nutritious, flavourful ingredients and large amounts of fresh herbs, it also involves some philosophical/spiritual principles like balancing Yin/Yang and the five elements. In general dishes should contain different flavours (sweet, hot, bitter, sour and salty) and textures, though sourness tends to be more common than in most other cuisines. Food presentation is also important. Dishes are often topped with spring onions, bean sprouts and lots of fresh herbs. Mint and coriander are most common, but many other herbs are used too, most with a somewhat similar taste. Thai basil is used too.

The most famous Vietnamese dish is probably pho, a meaty noodle soup, though there are also many other soups with and without noodles. Another famous soup (without noodles) is canh chua or sour soup, with tamarind which I recently got to taste for the first time (there were no Vietnamese restaurants when I lived in Helsinki, but there is one in Utrecht with lots of veg dishes). Besides soups, dishes include e.g. other noodle dishes, congee (rice porridge), (fried) rice dishes, salads, dumplings, crêpes and rice paper roll. Curries are eaten too and one Vietnamese specialty is stuffed baguettes dipped in broth. Tofu is popular and vegetarian dishes in general, but be careful, as fish sauce is ubiquitous.

This recipe comes from Bryanna Clark Grogan’s wonderful (and highly recommended) World Vegan Feast, called Sizzling Saigon Crepes, but thanks to my awesome Wikipedia skills I believe it’s a version of bánh xèo, stuffed rice flour crepes, often with coconut milk and turmeric. Bryanna Clark Grogan writes that some versions include mung beans in the batter so she went with that, for extra nutrition. You can buy it any Indian stores. The result is slightly similar to chickpea flour pancakes – and gluten-free, too.

This is quite a lot of work – and ingredients – but the result is delicious, something I plan to make regularly. Please don’t skip the herbs (or skimp on them), they are essential. Their amount may seem excessive, but you really want a lot. I used about half cilantro, some mint and a little ordinary basil. If you want to save work/time, you can skip the grated carrot from the sauce and marinating the tofu, you can’t really taste it’s been marinated. The batter and filling can be made the previous day.

Bánh xèo

Bánh xèo

Batter

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp (0.9 dl) mung dal (see notes)
1 cup/2.4 dl light coconut milk
3/4 cup/1.8 dl rice flour
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp turmeric

Filling

3 cups/7.2 dl chopped extra-firm tofu, seitan or tempeh (I used and recommend tofu)
2 1/4 tsp vegan nuoc cham (see below), more for serving
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp sugar
freshly ground black pepper
1 + 2 tbsp peanut oil (I used rice bran oil)
1 cup/2.5 dl thinly sliced mushrooms (any kind)
1 cup/2.5 dl thinly sliced Savoy or Napa cabbage
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced

Vegan nuoc cham sauce

1/4 cup Braggs liquid aminos or light soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp minced cilantro or mint
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1 tbsp finely shreedded carrot

Accompaniments

lettuce (any kind)
4 green onions, sliced diagonally into 2-inch pieces (or just chopped)
1/2 large cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 cups/5 dl fresh mung bean sprouts
3 cups/7.5 dl (not packed) mint, basil and/or cilantro leaves
sriracha sauce
nuoc cham sauce

Combine all the ingredients of nuoc cham. Combine the tofu with the spices used in the filling and let marinate for at least 30 minutes. Cover the mung daal with water and let soak for 30 minutes.

Heat the 1 tbsp of oil in a pan and stir-fry the tofu to brown it slightly. Add the mushrooms, cabbage and onion and fry until slightly wilted. Set aside, it can be let to cool to room temperature. Prepare the toppings/garnishes of the crepes.

Drain and blend the mung daal with the rest of the batter ingredients until smooth. Heat 1/2 tbsp of the oil on a small frying pan on medium-high heat and add 1/2 cup/0.6 dl of the batter. Immediately tilt the pan so that it forms a circle. Reduce the heat to medium and fry for 5 minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown and crispy. Flip the crepe over and cook that side for just a few seconds.

Repeat three times with the rest of the batter, stirring it just before pouring the batter for the rest of the pancakes. Keep the crepes warm in the oven or well covered.

Place a crepe on the plate and top it with a lettuce leaf (or vice versa; lettuce first would be more traditional). Add some filling and top with the fresh veggies, herbs and sauces. Roll it up or eat with a fork and knife, the latter likely being easier.

Makes 4 crepes to feed 4 people. The crepes an be reheated on a frying pan.

2 Responses to “Bánh xèo, or mung bean crêpes stuffed with tofu, vegetables and herbs (Vietnam)”

  1. 1

    Tämä kuulostaa tosi hyvältä! Olen joskus nähnytkin mung-lettujen ohjeita,mutten ole niitä koskaan kokeillut. Kiitos ohjeesta!

  2. 2

    These crepes really look unfeasibly good!


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