Sharing Food: Bánh Xèo and Nước Mắm/Chấm

“Sharing Food,” a new series by A&E, hopes to bring together students and their own cultural cuisines to discuss their recipes and stories, letting no meal go unshared.

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Liam Armstrong

Bánh xèo is a crêpe style dish originating in Vietnam. Students prepare the traditional plate with rice flour, water and turmeric, along with a dipping sauce, Nước mắm/chấm then adding various proteins, spices, and vegetables on Sunday Sep 13.

Nina Raemont

Sharing meals with friends across a candle-lit table, or more realistically, a coffee table you snagged off the curb of University Avenue, feels like a thing of the past. But, there are other ways we can swap our favorite recipes and stories even while we are separated.

This week, we look to the Vietnamese Student Association of Minnesota (VSAM) for some meal inspiration. The recipe they’re sharing is Bánh Xèo with Nước Mắm/Chấm, a crispy and savory crepe with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.

Pronounced “bun sayo” and “nook mum/chum,” this Vietnamese dish is “crispy, fulfilling and comforting,” said second-year VSAM representative Emily Nguyen. She remembers eating this when she visited Vietnam, recalling how Bánh Xèo was a refreshing dish to eat on rainy days.

Why is Bánh Xèo so delicious? Nguyen said the crepe, as well as Vietnamese cuisine in general, has the five elements of flavor — sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami — included within every dish. She lauded the dish for its versatility and customizability (you can make this dish vegetarian or vegan since the crepe batter is dairy-free, and the options you can include in the crepe are endless). Traditionally, this dish is paired with fresh herbs like Thai basil, mint and lettuce and is sometimes wrapped in rice paper.

From the crispiness of the crepe to the bright and fresh flavors you can include inside and the tangy and sweet dipping sauce, try Bánh Xèo and Nước Mắm/Chấm for a new and exciting dish this week.

Bánh Xèo (3-4 servings)
1 tablespoon vegetable or neutral oil
1 3/4 cup rice flour
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups water
1 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup spring onion, chopped
2 cups shrimp
1 1/2 cups pork belly
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional additions and swaps: Replace the shrimp or pork with tofu for a vegetarian twist. Add lettuce, Thai basil, mint, vegetables, bean sprouts or any other fresh herb/vegetable of your choice.

Heat skillet on medium high and lightly grease with vegetable oil. Let this heat up as you prepare your batter.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together rice flour, turmeric and salt. Add in the water and coconut milk, stirring well until the batter is coherent. Stir in the chopped spring onions.
Clean and cut the shrimp and pork belly (or tofu), lightly seasoning with salt and pepper on each side. Add to the skillet and cook, removing from the skillet once the meat is almost cooked through.
Ladle the crepe batter into the hot skillet, swirling the pan to spread the batter evenly. Cover and cook for approximately one minute.
Once the crepe has developed a crispy exterior, add in the fixings of your choice like shrimp, pork, tofu, bean sprouts, fresh herbs and vegetables. Fold the crepe in half, cooking for another minute with the lid on and then remove from the skillet.
Serve with lettuce, herbs and dipping sauce (Nước Mắm/Chấm).

Nước Mắm/Chấm (Bánh Xèo dipping sauce)
1 large garlic clove (2 small/medium sized cloves)
2-3 chili peppers, chopped (depending on spice preference)
2 tablespoons fish sauce (substitute soy sauce to make this vegetarian-friendly)
2 tablespoons sugar
10 tablespoons water
The juice of one lime/lemon

Mince garlic and dice chili peppers, keeping or removing seeds, depending on desired spice level.
In a small bowl, combine sugar, fish sauce and water, mixing until the sugar has dissolved. Then squeeze in the citrus juice. Lastly, add garlic and pepper, stirring well.