It's the sound of the batter hitting the hot oil that gives this dish (pronounced "bun say-o") its name: banh xeo. Literally "sizzling cake." Though it's difficult to pinpoint its origins, one theory suggests that banh xeo was developed from the crêpe, introduced to Vietnam during the French colonisation in the 19th century.
The thin, runny batter is ladled into a large flat crêpe pan or shallow wok and swirled quickly across the pan until it's very thin, crisp and golden. The crêpe is then generously topped with pork, shrimp, diced green onion and bean sprouts and folded. Once cut up, it is served in lettuce or mustard leaves and stuffed with mint, basil and dipped in a sweet and sour diluted fish sauce.
The banh xeo combines interesting contrasts of texture and flavour. The crunchy exterior, the perfume of the fresh herbs punctuated by the pungent dipping sauce make for a rewarding and appetizing culinary experience.
Venerable gourmands will want to check out Huong's Vietnamese Bistro for this and many other Vietnamese classic dishes.
Huong's Vietnamese Bistro is located at 359 Booth Street in Ottawa.