|Chefs sizzling at their wo(r)k, in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam, 2010)
Why do they give bánh xèo the fiery, explosive name that they do? Noodlepie the lonely food nerd and conqueror of Indochina says: "While the recipe itself might be a piece of piss, getting it right requires a deft hand, a frying pan as hot as the sun and a nibble touch with the batter." As if to echo my aforementioned sogginess fears, Noodlepie carries on: "Bánh xèo pancakes should be crispy on the outside and ever so slightly moist on the inside. Leaving it hanging around too long and you've got a soggy savoury crepe on your hands and you don't want that, believe me..."
I have watched a few videos of bánh xèo being cooked, and it seems the secret to its explosive crispiness lies in the way the chef swiftly swirls the batter around the hot wok. In the photo above you can see a bánh xèo chef at work on his wok, halfway through the swirl. That's how they do it, Saigon street style. In the video below, you can see how the pro's do it at home.