It’s the sound of the batter hitting the hot oil that gives this dish (pronounced “bun say-o”) its name: banh xeo. Literally “sizzling cake.” Though it’s difficult to pinpoint its origins, one theory suggests that banh xeo was developed from the crêpe, introduced to Vietnam during the French colonisation in the 19th century.
The thin, runny batter is ladled into a large flat crêpe pan or shallow wok and swirled quickly across the pan until it’s very thin, crisp and golden. The crêpe is then generously topped with pork, shrimp, diced green onion and bean sprouts and folded. Once cut up, it is served in lettuce or mustard leaves and stuffed with mint, basil and dipped in a sweet and sour diluted fish sauce.
The banh xeo combines interesting contrasts of texture and flavour. The crunchy exterior, the perfume of the fresh herbs punctuated by the pungent dipping sauce make for a rewarding and appetizing culinary experience.
Venerable gourmands will want to check out Huong’s Vietnamese Bistro for this and many other Vietnamese classic dishes.
Huong’s Vietnamese Bistro is located at 359 Booth Street in Ottawa.
Farmers’ markets are not a fad. They’ve existed since mankind has farmed the land. One of the oldest and purest forms of retail, these outdoor marchés are a place where hard-working farmers and food producers come together to support the community. As is the case with the Ottawa Farmers’ Market in Westboro, an artisinal-bougie-organic-antibiotic-and-gluten-free marketplace that’s a sight to behold.
Located along the walking path of the Byron Linear Park, between Golden, Richmond and Byron Avenues, this Saturday-only market has more than 65 appetite-inducing stalls. Among the fare being sold is a wide range of freshly-picked vegetables, organic meats (elk, anyone?), cheese, home-made soups, baked goods (try out the macaroons), breads and award-winning preserves (the pickled garlic scapes are my personal fave).
Shoppers can also find jewelry, wooden spoons and cutting boards, maple syrup, sauces and dressings and wooden furniture. While you shop, why not chow-down on samosas, pakoras or butter chicken from the Bombay Garden Indian Cuisine stall. The freebies are aplenty. I suggest the brownie samples from Carolina’s Box of Goodness, the kimchi from Raon Kitchen and the home-made gazpacho from Four Sisters (which I ultimately purchased and quickly devoured). Whatever you do, go early to get first dibs on fresh produce and avoid being trampled by the herd of designer baby carriages.
The Ottawa Farmers’ Market in Westboro is open Saturdays 9:30 am – 3:00 pm until October 26, 2013.