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Pancake pushers come up trumps

dct-banh-xeo-chef

After scoffing these pancakes a while back my request for top Saigon Banh xeo munch-house tips met with a stone cold serving of silence… That is until a couple of weeks back when I received 2 emailed hints (much appreciated) plus a location suggestion from a real live Saigonite in Saigon. Great – you’re thinking - that’s 3 banh xeo spots to check out. Wrong. All three had independently suggested the same joint – 46A Dinh Cong Trang Street in District 1. This many potty pancake lovers can’t be wrong, surely?

cdt-banh-xeo-frying

This saliva springing sight fizzin' away in the frying pan above is the reason why Saigonese flood to this 50 seater outdoor, alleyway eatery. Beansprouts, shrimps (or pork… hell… you can have both if you like to experiment) chucked in a thin batter. Fry that baby up, flip one side over and serve. I had a bit of a banter with the owner who told me the restaurant opened 50 years ago. It was the first of its kind and remains the most popular in the whole of Saigon. The chef told me her favourite frying pan (she has six permanently on the go on separate charcoal burners) is also 50 years old. Hmmm… maybe she said 5 years old, but I am sure I heard 50. Whatever, it was a mightily knackered pan she wielded at me.

dct-banh-xeo-dish

Across the street at 49A there’s a much larger, more modern copycat banh xeo restaurant. Tellingly, it was entirely devoid of customers for the length of my lunch, which was over an hour. What I love about many of these ‘famous’ places in Vietnam is despite heaps of loyal customers, oodles of cash coming in, they never lift a finger to improve the aesthetics of their restaurant. You need to devour this prime pancake as soon as it hits the plate. Don’t hang around for any late dinner arrivals and leave the civilities at home, “Oh no, please, you start.” “Oh no please you should try it first.” Stop it right there. Dive in. Banh xeo 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.

dct-cai-be-xanh

This dish comes with a plate of nine different leaves and herbs. The most important to my mind is this leaf – cai be xanh (mustard leaf) – which can be used to wrap combo-morsels of banh xeo and herb up before a quick dip in some nuoc mam (fish sauce) and down the hatch.

dct-banh-xeo-resto

46A Dinh Cong Trang serves up a stormin’ banh xeo and I would highly recommend trotting along if you’re in town. 17,000VD a pancake.  Download banh_xeo_movie.mov [UPDATE: Or watch the same clip on YouTube below] They also serve excellent Bi cuon – a herb packed, pig skin rice paper wrap number. View the business card and directions. More snaps from the Banh xeo restaurant can be seen at this photostream. Plus the menu is here; page 1, page 2, page 3.

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Pancake pushers come up trumps:

» Banh Xeo from The Food Section: Appetizers
Noodle Pie serves up a scrumptious survey of Saigon's banh xeo. [Read More]

» Bánh Xèo in Chợ Lớn from Antidote to Burnout
noodlepie has defined the wonderful Vietnamese dish bánh xèo very well in a posting last year about a street stand in Sài Gòn (District 1 downtown). This dish is a very thin crepe or pancake with shrimp and pork mixed [Read More]

Comments

you wrote: "despite heaps of loyal customers, oodles of cash coming in, they never lift a finger to improve the aesthetics of their restaurant"

It's probably the deep rooted belief in Fengsui. And being Vietnamese, adding a touch of Western addage - "don't fix what ain't broken" also strengthened their belief that changing/improving what's already working is foolish. It's the local thing. Viet's long history of war, survival and instinct had gotten them to this way of life/business practice. It's a multifaced issues... me think! :)

I had this place in my "must visit" list a couple years ago, but never made it.

However I'm fortunate enough to live near several (many many) excellent VN restaurants here in the States, and in fact I have 1/2 of a leftover pork and shrimp banh xeo sitting on the counter for this evening's supper. I don't mind that it's a tad soggy, it's still great.

when you are eating banh xeo, what kind of sauce do you pour over it when eating? and how do you make it?

You don't pour any sauce over banh xeo pa kou. You wrap the thing up and dip the whole wrap into fish sauce sometimes mixed with chilli.

Did anyone notice the difference in some of the prices between the vietnamese/chinese menu and the english menu?

How sad.

Dinh Cong Trang isn't shown on any of the HCMC maps I've looked at. I'd be very grateful to know the nearest major intersection or landmark.

Thank you Graham for recommending this place. I went there and thought it was simply fantastic. I have a write up on my site in the link above.

I can't this street on the map, could you pls email me the location. Is it located near any major road or attractions?

hi all :)


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