I am an avid fan of Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations” and was VERY fortunate to catch his lecture (probably the only lecture where I clung onto every word and I mean every word !) when he was here in Melbourne for the Food and Wine show in May this year. There was episode about Vietnam on the telly a few weeks back and I was fascinated by this dish called Bánh xèo “sizzling cake” which is a pancake/crepe stuffed with meat and vegetables.
I was particularly interested because this crepe used only rice (and sometimes corn flour) which is a green light for gluten free ballers out there and also having the bonus that it would be extra crunchy!
Olleh and I arrived in a noisy and packed slightly more classy joint before heading off to the Ink Dots exhibition held at the Vic bar just down the road (which I will visit in the future).
We ordered Beef satay skewers for starters 2 for $6.50. It was really nice and familiar because the beef were in meatball form and very similar to the ones I make at home: a little crispy on the outside and semi moist in the middle which was then smothered with a robust spicy satay sauce.
Also with that came a teapot full of tea and a huge plate piled high of salad greens: basil leaves, lettuce, pirella and mint. It was like a lush jungle and that was an indication of the beautiful monstrosity that was yet to come.
From a distance, our waiter looked like he came carrying this yellow umbrella on a plate. I think I actually said some swears to him when he came over with the Prawn and Pork Bánh xèo $16.50. It was motherfucking HUGE! I couldn’t get over how BIG it was and so I had a looky of its insides, which was chockers full of prawns, pork cooked into the crepe itself and on top was a combo of bean sprouts, carrots, onion….shall I count them? No! I would be wasting valuable chomping time!
Be prepared to use your hands (please make sure you wash them just before eating!) because that plate of greens that I mentioned before was used to wrap the pieces of yellow tasty sunniness in. I had some with and some without lettuce and herb combos and that gave it different compositions and tastes.
The dish to begin with is complex full of colours, textures: crispy, crunchy lightness from the crepe which was a luminous yellow ( not from the egg yolk surprisingly) blessed with turmeric and coconut milk flavours, sweet and savoury from the prawn and slightly salty pork, soft and al dente from the thinly sliced vegetables. My favourite would have to be from the tang and acidity of the herbs especially the strong punchy freshness of coriander. I took out my onion because I prefer them caramelized and not ‘blonde’. And when you add chilli….oh Lordy, you’re in another world all together!
You don’t get bored with this dish because of the many ways you can eat it and I love it! Its good for people with food ADD and I mean no disrespect those who have actual ADD.
I dreamt about it that night and had such a strong hankering that I went and had it for breakfast the day after and it was just as wonderful then but with a more serene dining experience because it was a chilly morning. I reckon I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
At the time, my words had gotten the best of me and I struggled to take photos on this. I was totally gobsmacked from having Bánh xèo for the first time. It had succeeded well beyond my expectations and this would be one of the first where I have been FLOORED by the whole thing. I never thought it would be this good! It’s so wonderful to have an awesome experience when trying new foods. I HIGHLY recommend this!
Thanh Ha 2
120 Victoria St Richmond (109 tram to Box Hill or South Morang get off North Richmond)