Crispy Vietnamese Turmeric Pancakes with Prawns - Bánh Xèo

Don’t know how to use fresh Turmeric? Try this easy, crispy street-food style bite, Bánh Xèo which translates as ‘sizzling cake’; it has a gorgeous glowing golden colour from the Turmeric root and a hint of subtle flavour.

I picked up this delicious treat from Jaki Clibbon at Papaya Verte. She was demonstrating at the Anglia Slow Food Festival in Norfolk where these pancakes were being devoured faster than she could make them. They were so simple and scrumptious that I just had to ask for the recipe.

Jaki does Pop Up events and Supper Clubs in Norfolk to raise funds for NGOs helping street kids in Vietnam; in particular the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Hanoi and the Allambie Orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City. Orphaned herself as a child, Jaki was ‘rescued’ by such organisations and likes to give back as much as she can.

For her, this is a taste of home with the sweet and sour notes so integral to Vietnamese food, plus it’s a guaranteed favourite with children.

If your children aren’t too keen on prawns, why not replace with a little cooked chicken?

Turmeric has incredible staining powers - apron on please!


For the batter

  • 2 cups rice flour (found in any oriental supermarket)
  • 375ml cold water
  • ¾ cup coconut milk
  • 2 inches turmeric root
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped including some of the green parts
  • Pinch of salt
  • Sunflower oil for pancake frying

For the filling

  • 1 cup bacon lardons
  • 2 cups of cooked prawns, halved
  • Handful of beansprouts

For the Nouc Mam Cham dipping sauce

  • 125ml water
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp palm sugar (use caster sugar if you can’t get palm sugar)
  • 2 Bird’s Eye chillies (deseeded for the faint of heart, seeds in for heat lovers)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated


To make the batter

  1. Peel and grate your turmeric root and then mash with the salt in a pestle and mortar.
  2. Whisk your pancake ingredients together in a bowl as you would any batter.
  3. Add the turmeric paste and whisk again.
  4. Leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Be sure to stir your batter prior to cooking as the rice flour may have sunk to the bottom.

To make the Nouc Mam dipping sauce

  1. Warm the water and melt your palm sugar in it. Do try and get palm sugar as it has a less harsh flavour than caster sugar.
  2. Add the vinegar, lime juice, garlic and chili.
  3. Add your fish sauce bit by bit. Taste constantly - it’s the fish sauce you need to adjust to balance your sweet, sour and salt.

To make your pancakes

  1. Gently fry your lardons until slightly crisp – they should fry in their own fat.
  2. Warm through your prawns and beansprouts with the lardons. Remove and set aside until ready to fill your pancakes.
  3. Using a small ladle and your favourite pancake pan, make your first pancake. Expect the first pancake not to work properly!
  4. Instead of flipping your pancake, sprinkle the surface with your prawn, lardon and beansprout mix and cover with a lid to let the pancake puff up a little and crisp up on the bottom.
  5. Fold the pancake in half and serve straight from the pan with the Nouc Man dipping sauce and a fresh salad of lettuce, fresh mint, Thai basil, coriander and cucumber.

Prep time: 45 mins

Makes: approx 8 pancakes

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