Bánh xèo is a Vietnamese crispy eggless pancake filled with pork or shrimps, or both, and mung bean sprouts. Bánh khọt is its mini version. Both are cooked with batter made with rice flour, turmeric, coconut milk and a bit of salt.
We enjoyed both during our walking tour in Saigon.
How to eat bánh xèo and bánh khọt like a local
Bánh xèo and bánh khọt are served with vegetables, herbs and dipping sauce. As someone who grew up with the very pervasive American culture (yes, my country was an American colony once and we never really shook off the effects), I’ve always treated the vegetables and herbs as “on the side” ingredients that may or may not be eaten depending on one’s preferences.
As it turned out, like many dishes in Vietnam, bánh xèo and bánh khọt fall under the “wrap and roll” category. We wouldn’t have known that were it not for our very informative tour guide. Had we been left to our own devices, we would have eaten bánh xèo the way we do Western omelets — cut into bite-size pieces then pop into the mouth. And we’d have picked a bánh khọt with chopsticks, dip it in sauce and bite into it.
Well, there is an art to eating bánh xèo and bánh khọt. Below, a video of how to eat bánh khọt like a local.
Meanwhile, eating bánh xèo involves an additional step.
What is bò lá lốt?
The full name of the dish is thịt bò nướng lá lốt which translates to “grilled beef in lolot leaf.”
Lolot is either piper sarmentosum or piper lolot. There is no English name for either plant and the leaf is referred to as “betel” because it is often confused with real betel leaves which come from a different plant.
How to wrap and roll bò lá lốt before eating
I always thought that bò lá lốt is a finger food that, from the grill, you pick up with your finger or with chopsticks, dip in sauce and eat. In Saigon, we learned that there is more to eating bò lá lốt if you want to enjoy it to the max.
Like bánh xèo and bánh khọt, bò lá lốt is served with vegetables, herbs and dipping sauce. Additionally, there are rice noodles, “Vietnamese kimchi” and rice paper.
Below, a video showing our tour guide illustrating how to eat bò lá lốt like a local.
So, next time you eat at a Vietnamese restaurant and you order bánh xèo, bánh khọt or bò lá lốt, you know exactly how to eat them.