Last month’s recipe was a big hit, and several of you have sent me your photos of egg coffee based on my Vietnamese egg coffee directions. Keep them coming! In line with recent travels, this month’s recipe is for banh khot, a mini-sized rice cake that is fried and served with fresh mustard leaves and herbs, as well as sweetened fish sauce for dipping. It’s not a dish I had heard of prior to visiting Vietnam, having instead gotten to know its larger sister, banh xeo (“xeo” meaning sizzling, accurate for how it is cooked). Both banh khot and banh xeo are eaten using a similar technique of wrapping the pancakes in greens before eating. There is something truly satisfying about a DIY food package such as this one.
The technique is simple: you take a piece of banh khot and put it on a bed of lettuce or mustard leaves and herbs, add some pickled carrot and radish slices, and then roll it all up and dip into some sweetened fish sauce. Kids love it as there is a method to their meal, and it is enjoyable for everyone to build the roll that makes them happy. For me, this means a liberal inclusion of the perilla herb.
It’s not the neatest of meals, but what it lacks in cleanliness it makes up for in fun.
The history of banh khot is unclear. Several Vietnamese friends in Ho Chi Minh City told me that it derives from the coastal region of Vung Tau, and others have said that no, it does not. No one was able to trace the dish back to its roots, other than informing me that it was a smaller, sizzling version of banh xeo. Online research was equally fruitless – “Possibly no one knows when banh khot … appeared in Vietnam’s cuisine and people are sure if the popular and cheap dish is the specialty of the southern coastal province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau” said one site. Right.
What is clear is that Vung Tau, even if it is not the birthplace of the dish, has certainly become the place to try it. While there are a few places in HCMC that make the mini rice pancakes, they pale in comparison to what we ate at the side of the road in Vung Tau for a fraction of the price. Popular at breakfast, banh khot is also available at several restaurants in town at all hours of the day.
What follows is a simplified version of the banh khot found in Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City. Often, the shrimp topping is complimented by a shrimp powder (you can see it in the second to last photo below), made with ground shrimp, Annatto oil and fish sauce. The optional powder recipe is found at the end, but the dish is also delicious without it.
As a celiac, it’s important for me to note that this is also a gluten-free recipe. However, if you take the short cut of buying banh khot mix from a store, do take a look closely at the ingredients, since they often include wheat flour as well as the usual rice flour mixtures.
Recipe for Banh Khot
- Banh Khot pan (if you cannot find a banh khot pan at a local Asian grocer, then Amazon sells a Takoyaki pan or an Aebleskiver pan, each of which will do just fine!)
Banh Khot Ingredients
- 1 package of banh khot flour mix, or 1.10 pounds (500 grams) of rice flour and 0.10 pounds (100 grams) of glutinous rice flour
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 1 1/2 cups of water
- 1/2 cup of hulled mung bean (they can be bought pre-hulled)
- 10 shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 clove of minced fresh chopped garlic
- 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
- 3 spring onions, chopped (discard the white part)
- springs of coriander, chopped, for garnish
- fresh Vietnamese mint, chopped, for garnish
- mustard leaves, for wrappping
- romaine lettuce leaves, for wrapping
- fresh perilla and basil herb, for wrapping
- vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- In a bowl mix the two flours (or take the bag of banh khot flour) and add the coconut milk until it is a smooth paste.
- Add smaller amounts of the water at a time until fully mixed, then the turmeric, and half of the chopped green onion and salt.
- Wash and chop shrimp into smaller pieces and sauté quickly in a small amount of vegetable oil with with the chopped garlic and the rest of the spring onion and a dash of salt. Set aside.
- Pour a small amount of vegetable oil into each indentation of the banh khot pan and heat until beginning to sizzle.
- Add batter into each indentation until approximately 2/3 full, cover and cook for about 3- 5 minutes.
- Remove the cover and add one or two pieces of shrimp and a tablespoon of mung bean to each of the indentations, then re-cover.
- Cooking complete when the sides of the pancakes are crispy and batter has fully set. (Usually an additional 3-5 minutes, depending on heat of the stove.)
- Top each of the pancakes with some chopped coriander and mint and, if you have decided to make it, the dried shrimp topping.
Serve with mustard leaves, romaine lettuce leaves and fresh perilla and basil for to create your own spring roll with each pancake, wrapping a banh khot in leaves and herbs, then dipping it into the fish sauce.
Powdered shrimp topping: (optional)
- 1/2 cup dried shrimp (soaked in warm water for at least 10 minutes)
- 1/2 teaspoon annato oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 2-3 tablespoons of sugar (depending on how sweet you’d like your sauce)
- 1/2 lime, juiced.
- 3 tablespoons of fish sauce
- Optional: 1 clove of garlic (finely chopped) and 2 red chillies (chopped)
Mix water, sugar and lime until sugar dissolves. Slowly add desired amount of fish sauce (more is better!) . If you’d like a bigger punch to the sauce, add in garlic cloves and chillies, though these can be served on the table and added to each person’s dipping dish depending on their preference.