While banh mi, bun cha, and pho will usually steal the headlines when it comes to Vietnamese cuisines, everyone who has spent time in Vietnam to some extent will know something about banh xeo.
This slick savory pancake can be spotted in lots of modest quán on street corners, and its numerous varieties depict the admiration of banh xeo, which goes beyond a single regional make.
In recent times, it has steadily shown why it is included among the pantheon of Vietnamese roadside fare, with all classes of people steadily going after the sizzling pancake, but is banh xeo gluten-free?
Here is everything you need to know about Banh xeo’s gluten-free status.
What is Banh Xeo?
Banh xeo, also referred to as Vietnamese sizzling pancakes, is a Vietnamese traditional dish that has conquered the Vietnamese culinary map and has further spread its foot into Thailand and Cambodia.
Depending on the recipe, banh xeo varies in size and shape. Its origin is still being debated, but it is generally agreed that it originated from Central Vietnam, although some think it originated from the southern Indian cuisine or the Champa.
Irrespective of its origin, this Vietnamese pancake has lots of variations as different regions have graced their recipe with their culinary traditions.
Most notably, in Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, and Quang Nam provinces, medium-sized banh xeo is wrapped in rice paper, while in the distant south, locals and cooks use seafood instead of bean sprout and pork with a combination of peanut sauce, fish sauce, and chilis. The variation up south is sometimes not wrapped at all or wrapped in fresh greens.
Banh xeo is traditionally fried over firewood in a cast iron pan. The cook begins the making process by adding a cube of pork fat to the cast iron pan, then pouring in the batter, spreading it around the pan (before you hear that crackling sound that makes people refer to it as the sizzling cake), adding the veggies and protein, and covering for 4 minutes or until both sides are cooked.
What is Banh Xeo Made Of?
While it may seem like an omelet pancake, banh xeo doesn’t contain eggs. The crust is formed with a pinch of salt, rice flour, and turmeric powder. In some recipes, wheat flour is added to make the dish more crispy and also to achieve that caramel color. Some chefs may also include chives and coconut milk for added color and flavor.
Banh xeo filling is usually made up of slices of pork belly, which stands as the primary protein, then prawns, mung beans, and bean sprouts for added freshness. However, different kinds of proteins can be used, such as duck, chicken, and seafood.
Is Banh Xeo Gluten Free?
Banh xoe is naturally gluten-free. The ingredients for the traditional banh xeo recipe include rice flour for the batter, vegetables, and protein fillings such as mung bean, bean sprout, chicken, pork, and seafood, which are all free from gluten and safe to consume for individuals with gluten sensitivity of all kinds.
However, it may sometimes contain gluten, as some chefs add wheat flour to the batter to make the pancake crispier. Also, while fish sauce and peanut sauce can be made gluten-free, they may not be gluten-free, and most Asian sauces are not labeled in English, making it hard to determine which contains gluten or not.
This makes it necessary to discuss your dietary needs so common sauces of gluten in banh xeo can be eliminated from your meal completely, or purchase sauces with clearly written “gluten-free” labels if you are making the banh xeo yourself.
Banh Xeo is more of a high-fat and high-carb dish, which is not suitable if you are on a diet, but Banh Xeo can be made healthy and incorporated easily into your diet if you observe moderate portion sizing.
A single ban xeo can supply 18 grams of fat, 33 grams of protein, 77 grams of carbs, and 430 calories. The calorie content may not be so much, depending on other foods you have for the day.
With a light breakfast, banh xeo can easily fit into your lunch or dinner. With 77 grams of carbs, you may want to tread with caution when eating banh xeo in moderation.
To make banh xeo more healthy, you can opt for shrimp as a source of protein instead of fatty pork. A teaspoon of oil could supply over 120 calories, so instead of using so much oil when frying your pancake, you could just opt for oil spray, which could help you reduce the amount of oil you use. Lastly, the fish sauce is calorie-dense; you may want to eat as little as you can.
Banh is traditionally a gluten-free dish, but in some cases, wheat flour may be added to either the batter, fish sauce, or peanut sauce, making it not gluten-free. The best way to have a gluten-free experience is to make them yourself or communicate your dietary needs.