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Banh Xeo - SF Dish of the Month May 2013

Dave MP May 1, 2013 01:19 PM

The SF Dish of the Month for May 2013 is Banh Xeo. This is a Vietnamese dish, and you can learn some initial facts about it on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A1nh_x%C3%A8o

The goal of Dish of the Month is to collectively try as many versions of banh xeo as possible during the month of May! So let's start exploring and eating—report back with reviews and photos.

For those who regularly eat Vietnamese food in the Bay Area, hopefully this project can lead to a new favorite version of banh xeo, and for those who don't usually seek it out, hopefully this will be an excuse to go out and try some!

Here's a link to the vote: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/899895

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  1. Ruth Lafler May 1, 2013 02:03 PM

    I'm going to be gone most of the month, but I'm always looking for good Bahn Xeo and I look forward to the reports.

    I hate to say it because overall I'm not a fan of the place, but one of the best bahn xeo I ever had was at Slanted Door -- the quality of the ingredients really made it shine.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler
      escargot3 May 1, 2013 02:25 PM

      I'm excited about this DoM. Does anyone have a few recommendations of places to try in SF & Oakland?

      On my list: Bodega Bistro, Quan Bac, Tay Ho

      1. re: escargot3
        Ruth Lafler May 1, 2013 04:57 PM

        Binh Minh Quan in Oakland used to do a good one.

        1. re: escargot3
          Windy May 1, 2013 05:01 PM

          Bodega's isn't especially good. I rarely get it because it means not getting one of my other favorite dishes there.

          Yummy Yummy
          Lotus Garden
          the vegan version at Golden Era

          1. re: Windy
            susancinsf May 9, 2013 06:31 AM

            haven't been to any of these places in way too long, (and of course this would be DOM the one month I really can't manage to sneak away to SF) but I am with you that the banh xeo at Bodega isn't worth it compared to other much better dishes on the menu. Lotus Garden remains my sentimental favorite (so I'd love to hear some updated reports) but Sao Bien just went on my list of places to try thanks to Cynsa's pics.

            But the best banh xeo I've ever had was at Star Noodle in Maui. I'd probably go back to Maui just to enjoy it....not that one really needs such incentive...

            Now if only there were *anywhere* to try the dish in Merced...

            1. re: susancinsf
              Windy May 9, 2013 10:22 AM

              I'd go to Maui for banh xeo. Maybe next month.

          2. re: escargot3
            Cynsa May 2, 2013 06:29 AM

            I order the banh xeo at Y&Y - it has a nice crisp to the crepe with a good ratio of bean sprouts:shrimp
            914 Clement Street
            (between 11th Ave & 10th Ave)

          3. re: Ruth Lafler
            felice May 4, 2013 09:03 AM

            Tay Ho in Oakland Chinatown has an excellent version that is really crispy, full of goodies, and not greasy.

          4. nicedragonboy May 1, 2013 05:07 PM

            Anh Hong in Berkeley had a good one. Though I haven't been there in over a year.

            11 Replies
            1. re: nicedragonboy
              drewskiSF May 8, 2013 02:59 PM

              I went to the Anh Hong in San Jose last night after originally planning on Quan Hue. Their Banh Xeo is $8.50

              A promising plate of greenery came out pre-crepe with lettuce, purple and green perilla, rau ram, cilantro, and mint accompanied by small bowls of julienned carrots & daikon, nuoc cham with garlic & chilis, and hot sauce with an empty bowl to combine to taste.

              The crepe looked different than other versions with holes like you often see on pancakes from maybe a too thick batter. It was physically thicker than typical and cooked to almost a cracker like crunch.

              Filling was mostly sprouts with small pan seared tail-on shrimp and somewhat tough pork. These were spread out a bit so you could get a bite with neither, if you weren't careful. The sprouts were blanched or steamed, but still had some crunch. There were green onions & shallots in the crepe and loose in the filling.

              Overall not that great, but I did like the Bi Cuon I also had with my meal (seen in background of 3rd picture).

               
               
               
               
              1. re: drewskiSF
                Melanie Wong May 8, 2013 03:15 PM

                That looks and reads like the proper type of herb plate that San Jose restaurants serve. Good variety on a separate platter, not squished along the side of the banh xeo where the greens leak water onto the crepe plate and turn too warm.

                I like holes in banh xeo for a lacy effect, but only if it's very thin and crispy, not hard. I'm not a fan of the tail-on shrimp, but that seems to be the majority, and I guess people just crunch 'em up.

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  drewskiSF May 8, 2013 08:43 PM

                  I don't eat Banh Xeo often so haven't seen the holey, lacy variety. Unfortunately, this was anything buy lacy and thin.

                  About the shrimp tails, I did just crunch 'em up, but your comment made me remember an old story.

                  There was a office birthday lunch at Slanted Door (Valencia St.) and one person had a shrimp dish and took off all of the tails. The head of the department asked them "Can I have those, if you're not going to eat them?" and when the person said OK with a quizzical look the dept. head said "They're a great source of fiber" and proceeded to "crunch 'em up" as you put it :)

                  They were full sized shrimp as opposed to the 1.5 inchers in the Banh Xeo

                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                    o
                    oranj May 8, 2013 09:04 PM

                    For some reason i thought it depended on the type of shrimp and how it was cooked. I've traveled where you are expected to eat the shrimp in entirety and watched a few westerners struggle as they peeled what they were served. as drewski said, they were tiny little things, but i think that some of the smaller varieties of shrimp have more flavor in the shell than in the flesh

                    1. re: oranj
                      Melanie Wong May 8, 2013 09:12 PM

                      Yes, depends on the type of shrimp and the cooking style.

                      Here's my post on eating camarones cucarachas with another chowhound where we pondered that question.
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8641...

                      In the case of banh xeo, the shrimp tails aren't particularly crispy as a fried shrimp's would be, and they tend to get kind of limp wrapped inside the crepe. So they're generally not that appetizing to me.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        o
                        oranj May 8, 2013 09:46 PM

                        oh my. thank you for that link. that food sounds delicious. I agree with you on that second point for sure, a limp shrimp tail is unappetizing.

                2. re: nicedragonboy
                  m
                  macadam May 28, 2013 10:01 PM

                  Went tonight for our first time tonight and had Banh Xeo for the first time, ala Chowhound of the Month. After reading other reports, I think we hit the jackpot! Crepe was beautifully crisped, no sogginess, even after adding the ingredients. Also had the spring roll which was delicious and fresh, also. Nice sauces and crispy fresh greens as accompaniements...will definitely return. Thanks Dragonboy!
                  Diane

                  1. re: macadam
                    h
                    hyperbowler May 29, 2013 06:51 AM

                    Awesome! This was at the Berkeley or the SF branch of Anh Hong?

                    1. re: hyperbowler
                      wolfe May 29, 2013 07:31 AM

                      Baùnh Xeøo – Vietnamese Crepe $12.50
                      Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside Crepe filled with
                      Shrimp, Pork, Creamy Mung Beans and Bean Sprouts.
                      Served with Lettuce and Mixed Herbs.

                      1. re: hyperbowler
                        m
                        macadam May 29, 2013 09:55 AM

                        Berkeley

                      2. re: macadam
                        nicedragonboy May 31, 2013 01:22 PM

                        Glad you enjoyed it. I had the same experience the last time I had it there.

                    2. bbulkow May 2, 2013 09:15 AM

                      Sunflower at the corner of 16th and Valencia has always been a Banh Xeo staple for me. It's not perfect in a number of ways, but average banh xeo is better than none!

                      Xahn in MV has mini-ones, but I always found them somehow underflavored.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bbulkow
                        Windy May 17, 2013 10:53 PM

                        I went to Sunflower tonight. The waiter admitted banh xeo was his favorite dish, and he was having one as soon as he took a break.

                        bbulkow's account is accurate, not perfect but still good. Very crispy if a little greasy crepe with embedded chicken and rock shrimp, filled with sprouts. A side plate of lettuce, mint, grated carrots and daikon, and thick slices of cucumber. It's been rare to get anything but lettuce and mint anywhere I've been in the city.

                        The crepe itself wasn't all that flavorful, but I have to admit I'm enjoying the excuse to eat this all over town. It was $8.95. Also glad to have the reminder to eat at Sunflower.

                         
                      2. Cynsa May 3, 2013 01:28 PM

                        Sao Bien has muscled its way to #1 on my Banh Xeo ranking. $8.95 - the crepe is crisp, hot and nicely charred, deeply golden with turmeric or saffron; the pork+shrimp+bean sprouts+mung beans with lettuce/basil/dipping sauce make ample wraps. I can't imagine it being better than this one.
                        701 Larkin Street @ Ellis.

                         
                         
                        18 Replies
                        1. re: Cynsa
                          Windy May 3, 2013 02:35 PM

                          Looks fantastic. Most likely turmeric, but I'll need to go find out.

                          1. re: Windy
                            chefj May 6, 2013 04:12 PM

                            Its Turmeric.

                          2. re: Cynsa
                            pilinut May 3, 2013 11:45 PM

                            That looks marvelous, Cynsa! If it comes with your imprimatur, it is definitely on my list!

                            1. re: Cynsa
                              Civil Bear May 6, 2013 06:32 PM

                              I have only ordered this dish a few times, mainly because it had been a miss whenever I did. I think the only version I liked was at Pho Ha Tien on Ocean Ave (but I can't be sure), and although pretty good, I didn't think it was worth the trouble that it is to eat.

                              Anyway, since I wasn't sure what a good version was, I tried the Banh Xeo at Soe Bien today on Cynsa's recommendation. I thought it was as good as I have had, but again, just not worth the trouble. Too many bean sprouts going every which way, and the bottom was more soggy than crispy. The mild flavors are nice (still burping mint), but I guess I am just not a fan of the dish.

                              Curious about Sao Bien though...is it relatively new within the last couple of years, or did it just get a makeover? I thought the fresh shrimp rolls were great although the peanut sauce was a little gloppy.

                              1. re: Civil Bear
                                Cynsa May 6, 2013 07:02 PM

                                DH hates wrapping the stuffed crepe in the lettuce, it never fails to fall apart and he says it is too troublesome... but I relish the hot crepe in the chilled lettuce layered with its veggies. I like that Sao Bien makes it hot and crisp with good chunks of pork and shrimp topping all those fresh crunchy bean sprouts and soft yellow mung beans. Am I the only one to like the clean fresh taste of bean sprouts?

                                1. re: Cynsa
                                  escargot3 May 6, 2013 10:22 PM

                                  the joy of Banh Xeo is the contrast between the hot crispy crepe and the cool, crisp flavor of the bean sprouts, plus the medley of flavors of the shrimp and bits of pork (which I forgot to mention in my report on Quan Bac). It's a rainbow of fresh flavors.

                                  ps- it was completely crispy. nothing soggy.

                                2. re: Civil Bear
                                  Melanie Wong May 8, 2013 03:11 PM

                                  Sounds like you're trying to make too big of a wrap. Try a smaller portion, just two or three bites worth that you can pinch together snugly, and it won't collapse. I can agree with you that most places I've tried banh xeo, most of the bottom half of the crepe turns soggy with standing and goes uneaten.

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                    Civil Bear May 9, 2013 05:50 PM

                                    You may be right, but the crepe seems to fall apart as soon as I cut in to it. Maybe I need a wrapping lesson! Will you be judging at Santa Clara this summer?

                                    1. re: Civil Bear
                                      Melanie Wong May 26, 2013 02:03 PM

                                      Yes, judging in Santa Clara next month.

                                      Hey, folks who voted for Banh Xeo for dish of the month, this is the final week in the spotlight. Time to report in, so far we've only heard from a couple of you.
                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8998...

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                        h
                                        hyperbowler May 28, 2013 05:29 PM

                                        Any new reports before the month comes to a close?

                                        1. re: hyperbowler
                                          Melanie Wong May 30, 2013 01:48 AM

                                          I have one more to post. And I don't even like banh xeo.

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                            Ruth Lafler May 30, 2013 09:57 AM

                                            Just like you to make the supreme sacrifice.

                                            I was away most of the month, but I have a list of four places in Oakland that haven't been reported on and I'm hoping to hit up at least two of them in the last two days.

                                            I should mention that I've had banh xeo at two places in Alameda in the past: Pho Little Saigon and Dragon Rouge. The version at PLS was not good, and they have since closed. The version at Dragon Rouge was competently executed but completely unmemorable (since, in fact, I had to cudgel my memory for a vague recollection).

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                              Melanie Wong May 30, 2013 10:18 AM

                                              Heheh, thanks. Actually not hard to do, as I'll eat at a Vietnamese restaurant a couple times a month anyway. It's the raw bean sprout aversion for me. And the weak nuoc mam --- it's interesting for me to read Alice Patis' complaints, since I assume she's mostly eating in San Jose. She'd be floored by how much more watery the dipping sauces are outside the South Bay.

                                              I'd hoped that we'd see a wider range of places reported and some new original ones. And maybe a fresh report on the BX at Slanted Door. I hope that someone can make it to Minh's in Milpitas too.

                                              Look forward to your input. Figured you'd be wanting some chopstick-able food after your Euro travels.

                                3. re: Cynsa
                                  c
                                  charliemyboy May 29, 2013 04:31 PM

                                  Today six of us checked out the banh xeo at Sao Bien and then at Vietnam House. Cynsa has already described Sao Bien's version which was served at the same high standard today. The flavor was very good, maybe the best I've ever had. The variety of herbs is limited— you don't get any cilantro, rau ram or perilla. If that keeps you from piling on too many herbs and obscuring the flavor of the crepe that might be a good thing. The dipping sauce was good but not fantastic.

                                  Cynsa suggested we save some room for Vietnam House's banh khot, and once we arrived there we also tried the banh xeo. VH's crepe was fairly similar to SB's with lots of crunchy bean sprouts. It was harder to divide into portions, falling apart at the least touch. I didn't find it as flavorful as SB's. We were served a very ample supply of herbs including the cilantro and rau ram I missed at SB.

                                  I still think Bodega Bistro has the best dipping sauce, superior to SB's or VH's, and nuoc cham quality is a critical element in my enjoyment. But crepe-wise, SB rules!

                                  1. re: charliemyboy
                                    Cynsa May 29, 2013 06:58 PM

                                    At Sao Bien at 11:30 am, we were ahead of the large celebrations for graduating seniors - with our order of Banh Xeo.

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8433...
                                    at Vietnam House.

                                    I made the early attempt to have banh xeo at Ngoc Mai Restaurant at 10 am but they are on vacation until July 20.

                                     
                                     
                                    1. re: Cynsa
                                      Cynsa May 29, 2013 07:10 PM

                                      Not a 'one trick pony', we also ordered bo tai canh, fish maw soup, Rau Muong Xao Gung Toa, Goi Ngo Sen Lotus Salad. The dressing on the Lotus Salad was just too sweet...I'd return to Vung Tau in San Jose for a better balanced version of Lotus Salad. The carpaccio hit all the right notes. Fish Maw soup was satisfying. The ong choi was slightly overcooked. SB is a restaurant for Chinese and Vietnamese seafood.

                                       
                                       
                                       
                                       
                                    2. re: charliemyboy
                                      RWCFoodie May 29, 2013 07:30 PM

                                      Sao Bien's banh xeo was very impressive. Very large, very crispy, very fresh tasting, very coconutty - it hit all the right spots for me. For me, easily the best banh xeo I've eaten. Skimpy herb salad plate but as charliemyboy said, less herbs = less obscuring the flavors of the crepe & filling.

                                      I liked being able to compare, almost side-by-side, Sao Bien's banh xeo and Vietnam House's version. SB's crepe was more substantial in texture and didn't fall apart too badly when cut up into smaller pieces for sharing. VH's crepe was much more delicate. I liked the filling in VH's version, very tender, juicy pork strips. I enjoyed both of them very much.

                                      Loved the atmosphere at VN, after the lunch rush, very tranquil - especially after the happy (loud) multiple graduation lunch celebrations at SB...

                                    3. re: Cynsa
                                      Dave MP Jun 2, 2013 01:14 PM

                                      I ate at Sao Bien last night, for the first time in many years.

                                      Banh xeo was good, but a bit overcooked (as you can see in the picture). The only herb is came with was mint (no basil), but I liked the addition of mung beans and the crepe was nice and crispy.

                                      We also had the lotus root salad, which was very good (and huge), the bun bo hue (also huge and good, though not quite as flavorful as I would have liked), and the salt&pepper shrimp (a bit overcooked, but nice flavor).

                                       
                                       
                                       
                                    4. chaddict May 3, 2013 02:18 PM

                                      There is also a Cambodian version of this dish and I am fond of the one at Angkor Borei.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: chaddict
                                        Windy May 3, 2013 02:35 PM

                                        Thanks for the reminder. And how nice to see your name.

                                      2. wolfe May 3, 2013 02:26 PM

                                        Nong Thon El Cerrito good version as to size and lack of grease but a little filling deficient at time of this linked report. Haven't been back. Any more recent reports?

                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/743259

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: wolfe
                                          e
                                          ernie in berkeley May 18, 2013 03:15 PM

                                          I tried the Nong Thon today. It was indeed light on the filling, with maybe four shrimp and a couple of thin ribbons of chicken. Bean sprouts dominated. Is the filling supposed to be more than just the shrimp and chicken (and the sprouts)?

                                          The aroma of something like fish sauce was pretty strong, surprising but not unwelcome. Nice crisp crepe, though, not particularly greasy. They list it as an appetizer, and it wasn't quite enough to be a satisfying lunch.

                                          1. re: ernie in berkeley
                                            wolfe May 18, 2013 04:35 PM

                                            Typically a little pork too.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia...

                                            1. re: ernie in berkeley
                                              drewskiSF May 18, 2013 04:51 PM

                                              Also common are onions and mung beans

                                          2. stravaigint May 6, 2013 08:48 AM

                                            Had the #3 pork and shrimp at Pho 909 in Milpitas. Crispy crepe, tons of filling and absolutely huge (chopsticks included in blurry pic for reference), with an even bigger side of fragrant greens.

                                            ===

                                            Pho 909, 72 S Park Victoria Dr, Milpitas, CA 95035
                                            http://www.pho909restaurant.com/

                                             
                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: stravaigint
                                              drewskiSF May 15, 2013 10:42 AM

                                              On my way to San Jose for some meetings, I stopped at Pho 909.

                                              They have 4 Banh Xeo options. 3 Shrimp variations (solo, +chicken, +pork) and one vegetarian listed separately in the vegetarian section of the menu.

                                              I also got the #3 which is Shrimp+Pork. Similar to Anh Hong, this example used the "3/4 fold-over" method making the crepe look bigger and putting a lot of the fillings on the plate rather than the bottom 1/4 of the crepe folded underneath.

                                              Their version had great crispiness that lasted through the whole dish. A crispy crepe definitely makes holding onto the lettuce wrap easier! There was a good amount of tender pork and 3 small shrimp along with sprouts, mung beans, and scallions.

                                              The large plate of greens appeared to be lettuce, mint, cilantro, and purple perilla, but half-way through I found some mustard greens buried under the lettuce. Some of the lettuce and perilla was limp and wilty.

                                              The nuoc cham had some garlic and pickled carrots & daikon. I doctored it a bit with the nuoc mam and chili sauce provided on the table.

                                              More than half the diners at lunch were enjoying some form of Banh Xeo.

                                               
                                               
                                               
                                               
                                               
                                              1. re: drewskiSF
                                                Windy May 15, 2013 03:23 PM

                                                Looks great.

                                                1. re: Windy
                                                  drewskiSF May 15, 2013 04:43 PM

                                                  Yeah, I'd probably put it a close 2nd behind the one I had at Tay Ho, Oakland

                                            2. escargot3 May 6, 2013 04:04 PM

                                              I started the Bahn Xeo adventure at Quan Bac last nite, and really enjoyed it. I had it there 2 or 3 years ago, so it's not a new tasting experience. It was just as good a preparation as i remembered: fresh ingredients, several large and flavorful shrimp, and lottsa veggies. The platter of greens served with it was plentiful -- not as varied kinds of herbs as I am used to getting with an order of pho, but perhaps that is typical for this dish. I especially appreciated the accompanying dipping sauce (fish sauce) which was not too sweet, and the house made chile sauce.

                                               
                                              1. h
                                                hyperbowler May 7, 2013 06:07 AM

                                                Not having eaten a Banh Xeo before, I took the advice upthread and head to Tay Ho in Oakland. The crepe was crisp but not greasy, and was filled with bean sprouts, tender poached shrimp, onion slices, and pork.

                                                I needed the server's advice on how to eat this. It took a while to figure out a good ratio of mint and cilantro to put in the center, and the right amount of the stuffed crepe to shove into the lettuce leaf. Once that happened, and I removed a good amount of the bean sprouts (slight allergy), I really enjoyed this fresh and crunchy dish.

                                                 
                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: hyperbowler
                                                  drewskiSF May 8, 2013 03:10 PM

                                                  I also enjoyed Tay Ho's version which I tried for lunch. It's $9.25 (online menu says $8.50)

                                                  Like Anh Hong (AH), it's a mix your own dipping sauce thing with nuoc cham and hot sauce provided at each table. The veggie plate had pickled daikon & carrots, lettuce, mint, rau ram, and cilantro.

                                                  Nice and crispy exterior. There were green onions in the crepe and sliced white onions in the filling.

                                                  Better coverage of protein than AH with a solid layer of pork slices covering the sprouts and then the shrimp on top. At AH the pork and shrimp pieces alternated and it was possible to get a bites with neither.

                                                   
                                                   
                                                   
                                                  1. re: drewskiSF
                                                    Melanie Wong May 8, 2013 03:21 PM

                                                    Also the Tay Ho in Oakland? That looks really stuffed with shrimp and pork.

                                                    Driving down Senter Rd in San Jose on Monday, I noticed a sign for Tay Ho 8, re-opening further south than originally.

                                                    http://www.tayho.com/web/en/infomatio...

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                      drewskiSF May 8, 2013 03:25 PM

                                                      Yes, it was the Oakland branch.

                                                    2. re: drewskiSF
                                                      h
                                                      hyperbowler May 8, 2013 08:59 PM

                                                      Hey, no fair--- I didn't get any carrot and daikon! Oh well, the servers were really cool and did offer me more herbs and lettuce at one point. I'll know to request them next time. Your filling also seems to have more onion than mine did.

                                                      1. re: drewskiSF
                                                        escargot3 May 24, 2013 08:45 PM

                                                        I didn't get served any pickled daikon & carrots either. But green veggies were very fresh and piled high. Crispy bottom, not greasy. Shrimp were much smaller than the version at Quan Bac. but Tay Ho version has more of a coconut flavor. Liked them both.

                                                        Tho the resto was quiet when I arrived, service was ... almost non-existent at TH. My water glass was never re-filled. But I like going there -- great food, nice environment.

                                                    3. nicedragonboy May 7, 2013 11:22 AM

                                                      My girlfriend makes a great Banh Xeo at home but she introduced me to something that I was not familiar with as I was growing up eating Banh Xeo, which is cooking steamed yellow mung bean into the crepe. This adds an interesting texture and flavor to the dish which I have grown to enjoy. Anyone seen this technique in the Banh Xeos they have tried in a restaurant? I know for sure it isn't done everywhere since I've only been introduced to it more recently.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: nicedragonboy
                                                        Melanie Wong May 7, 2013 11:27 AM

                                                        Yes. And also steaming the bean sprouts to wilt them slightly before adding to the cooked crepe. A big one for me as raw bean sprouts taste like dirty water to me.

                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                          c
                                                          calny May 8, 2013 01:45 AM

                                                          I'm glad to know I'm not alone on raw bean sprouts. On the other hand, I love them cooked. I do try to enjoy them in various raw uses in Vietnamese cooking but always end up picking or leaving them out.

                                                          1. re: calny
                                                            Melanie Wong May 8, 2013 01:51 AM

                                                            Given our bond, you may wish to check out Pho Pasteur which offers the option of steaming the bean sprouts served with pho there.
                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/892211

                                                        2. re: nicedragonboy
                                                          Cynsa May 7, 2013 02:50 PM

                                                          Yes. Sao Bien has yellow mung beans in the Banh Xeo and it's a nice textural addition to the medley of flavor.

                                                        3. Windy May 7, 2013 03:56 PM

                                                          Reading this thread made me crave a crepe, so I stopped by Mau on Valencia. Despite the upscale appearance and the whole baby coconuts and beers on tap, the menu seemed quite authentic.

                                                          Banh xeo is $9. It was a little greasier than my perfect crepe, but this made the bean sprouts tastier. I also got a side of baby bok choy, stir fried with garlic, which was huge and delicious.

                                                          It's great to have more reasonably priced Vietnamese options beyond the Tenderloin and the Avenues. I'll definitely be back.

                                                           
                                                          1. Candy May 7, 2013 04:06 PM

                                                            Andrea Nguyen's cookbook Asian Dumplings has an excellent recipe for Banh Xeo. The wrappers can be a bit tricky to make. When I was testing the wrapper recipe for the book it took some trial and error, the wrapper is like a crepe. I was using a Swiss Diamond skillet and it is so heat efficient that I had to take the pan off the heat between each wrapper. It is a very thin skin. You take the loose dough which is in a bowl over ice. Pick up a wad of the dough and smear it over the bottom of the pan and put the remaining dough back into the bowl over ice to chill again. It is just a learning curve, once you get it, it becomes simple.

                                                            1. Windy May 8, 2013 04:38 PM

                                                              I stopped by Pho Ha Tien on Ocean to compare their banh xeo. I've ordered it here before, usually inspiring the people around me to ask what it is and order their own. At $8.50, it's worth it just for the whole plate of red leaf romaine that accompanies it.

                                                              The outside was perfectly crisp and crunchy, and the shaved onions and sprouts inside were delicious. Generous portions of shrimp and slightly dried out pork. The herbs were enough mint for a table of lemonade and too-thick sliced cucumbers.

                                                              It could have used more flavor (possibly just salt), or pickled carrots or daikon, or herbs. But hard to fault such a giant plate. The outside stayed crispy to the end. And because I had so much attractive lettuce, I ate all my greens for the day.

                                                               
                                                              1. drewskiSF May 9, 2013 03:10 PM

                                                                Tried Binh Minh Quan for lunch. Their Banh Xeo is $8.

                                                                Veggie plate included a large pile of mint and perilla burying a small stalk of rau ram and a few small pieces of lettuce. A handful of pickled daikon and carrots had a single cilantro leaf. I didn't specify "No Cilantro" as I usually do (tastes soapy to me), but it worked out pretty well.

                                                                The crepe was not crispy except at the thin edges and had the most pronounced coconut flavor vs. Tay Ho and Anh Hong.

                                                                Fillings of chicken, shrimp and sprouts were skimpy compared to their neighbor; they covered about 2/3 of the crepe with sprouts with gaps between each piece of protein. The sprouts here were raw, warming from the heat of the other ingredients. Chicken and shrimp were tender, but the chicken lacked any seasoning.

                                                                Very flavorful nuoc cham. Definitely the best of the 3 spots I've tried in the last 3 days. If only I could sneak some of this into Tay Ho . . .

                                                                For me, Tay Ho wins the Oakland 12th St x Webster BX grudge match :)

                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                1. Melanie Wong May 13, 2013 12:17 PM

                                                                  In case anyone is looking for the dish in the North Bay, I've been doing some spot checking of menus. Mai Vietnamese in Cotati has it.
                                                                  http://maivietnamesecuisine.com/vietn...

                                                                  Not on the menu at Simmer Vietnamese Kitchen or Thanh Long in Petaluma nor Simply Vietnam or Lee's Noodle House in Santa Rosa.

                                                                  I've had the Cambodian version, ban chev, at Noodle Bowl in Santa Rosa, but would not recommend it.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                    drewskiSF May 13, 2013 03:29 PM

                                                                    Looks like there's multiple names for the Cambodian version. Phnom Penh House in Oakland has it on their menu as Noum Om Beng

                                                                    http://phnompenhhouse.com/menu.html

                                                                    1. re: drewskiSF
                                                                      Melanie Wong May 13, 2013 03:43 PM

                                                                      Thanks. This posting on FB seems to imply that that the difference is regionally based. But one of the replies says that they're different things.
                                                                      https://www.facebook.com/SrokKhmerKingdomofCambodia/posts/462196353858127

                                                                      And somewhere recently I read reference to soft vs. crispy style, so maybe that's part of the difference too.

                                                                      Here's the banchev at Noodle Bowl in Santa Rosa,
                                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                        drewskiSF May 13, 2013 04:46 PM

                                                                        Interesting. The post says the Phnom Penh local name is Banh Chev.

                                                                        And then Battambang throws a wrench in it with a hybrid name of Num Banchev :)

                                                                        http://www.themenupage.com/battambang...

                                                                  2. drewskiSF May 13, 2013 04:48 PM

                                                                    Went to the Laurel location of Phnom Penh House and tried the Noum Om Beng (Cambodian crepe stuffed w/pork, shrimp, coconut, & bean sprout served w/ peanut sauces, $7.95).

                                                                    The crepe and veggies come on the same plate with a quarter wedge of iceberg lettuce, a small sprig of mint, and cucumber slices. The "peanut sauces" is fish sauce based with a topping of crushed peanuts and some chilis mixed in.

                                                                    The crepe was a little greasy and just *slightly* crispier than the Binh Minh Quan version, which is to say, not particularly crispy except on the edges.

                                                                    The filling was mostly ground pork and sprouts with a bit of green onion and *ONE* small shrimp that has been cut into pieces. It tasted like it had been stir-fried and was in need of some seasoning so dipping into the sauce was pretty mandatory.

                                                                    So far for me I'd rate my tastes as follows with Tay Ho probably the only one I'd seek out in the future.
                                                                    1. Tay Ho
                                                                    2. Binh Minh Quan
                                                                    3. Phnom Penh House
                                                                    4. Anh Hong

                                                                    -------------------------
                                                                    Phnom Penh House
                                                                    3912 MacArthur Blvd
                                                                    Oakland, CA

                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                    1. m
                                                                      mdg May 13, 2013 04:51 PM

                                                                      I had this dish for the first time at Bodega Bistro a few weeks ago. Someone else here wasn't too enthused about their rendition, but my sister and I both thought it was delicious! Recommendations in the South Bay area would be great for comparison.

                                                                      Michael

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: mdg
                                                                        Melanie Wong May 14, 2013 12:09 AM

                                                                        You might want to check out the San Jose branch of Tay Ho since the Oakland one is getting good marks in this discussion.

                                                                      2. Melanie Wong May 14, 2013 12:05 AM

                                                                        No sooner do I go off about the superiority of the herb/greens garnishes in San Jose than one fails me.

                                                                        Friday I returned to Hue Restaurant in south San Jose. On my earlier visit, banh xeo was absent from the menu, so it's a new addition.
                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/875875

                                                                        Other than the lack of diversity (only mint, red leaf lettuce, and mustard greens) and squishing the minimum amount of greenery onto the same plate, this was not a bad banh xeo. Thinner than most making the crepe quite crispy but not hard, and more than 3/4s stayed crunchy. The small shrimp did not have tail shells, but most of the rest of the very thin shells were intact. Pork was tender and not dried out. Some bonus small cubes of white something that I thought might be squid turned out to be 1/4" dice of firm pork fat embedded in the crepe. Bean sprouts were cooked, not raw. No green onions, no shallots, no mung beans, so pretty straightforward.

                                                                        Though this is a Hue-style restaurant, the dipping sauce was straight forward nuoc cham. A bit spicier than at other places. Not bad for $7.75, but I probably wouldn't order it again here.

                                                                        Huế Restaurant
                                                                        3005 Silver Creek Rd, #190
                                                                        San Jose, CA 95121
                                                                        408.223.1021

                                                                        ETA: Reviewing this thread, I notice that no one else has mentioned mustard greens for wrapping. I really like the peppery bite.

                                                                         
                                                                         
                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                          Dave MP May 15, 2013 05:09 PM

                                                                          I've never seen mustard greens as a wrapping! I wonder if this is common elsewhere, or if it's just particular to this restaurant?

                                                                          1. re: Dave MP
                                                                            drewskiSF May 15, 2013 05:14 PM

                                                                            They also had them on the herb / veggie plate @ Pho 909 in Milpitas. Last picture.
                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9004...

                                                                            None of the other spots I've sampled had it.

                                                                            1. re: Dave MP
                                                                              Melanie Wong May 15, 2013 05:39 PM

                                                                              Mustard leaf is listed as a wrapper in the Wiki page linked in the original post. If you've missed it, maybe it's a seasonal thing or just another example of places in San Jose/Milpitas offering better variety of traditional accompaniments than in SF.

                                                                              This photo shows the mustard leaf a bit better, the broad leaf at the base of this pile of herbs. This is the type that has fan-shaped leaves that look like collard greens rather than the heading type of mustard green that drewskiSF found.
                                                                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                                          2. h
                                                                            hyperbowler May 15, 2013 09:29 PM

                                                                            MaMa's Vietnamese Cuisine, a few hundred feet from Little Shanghai in San Mateo, caught my eye so I stopped in for a banh xeo. With tax, it cost a little bit over $9.

                                                                            Along with the crepe they serve lettuce, cilantro, pickled daikon & carrot (they serve banh mi here), thick cucumber chunks, and a fish sauce dipping sauce. Pretty basic compared to some of the other reports for this month.

                                                                            The crepe started out with a strong coconut flavor and was way too greasy. The inside was filled with cooked bean sprouts and shrimp fixed into the pancake. There were also a few loose shrimp coated in pasty uncooked batter. This was fine when wrapped in lettuce and dipped in fish sauce, but the crepe itself left much to be desired.

                                                                             
                                                                             
                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: hyperbowler
                                                                              pilinut May 16, 2013 01:16 AM

                                                                              Thanks for posting! I live in the area but have never tried MaMa's--someone once told me it wasn't very good, and now you've corroborated that, taking one place off my might-try list.

                                                                              1. re: pilinut
                                                                                bbulkow May 28, 2013 10:44 PM

                                                                                Tried it once myself, found it average at best.

                                                                            2. drewskiSF May 16, 2013 05:40 PM

                                                                              Ma Me House took over the space of the ill fated Banana Soy Vegan Restaurant (What were they open for? Like 3 months?) and has been open for about 8 months now.

                                                                              They say they specialize in Binh Thuan cuisine, a province just a little north east of Saigon. I couldn't say what exactly differentiate this province's cuisine, but a scan of their Mon Dac Biet (Specialties) section included a Pork, Shrimp, and Crab Ragu over Vermicelli dish (Bun Nhung Thit Tom Cua), a couple of curries (Ca Ri Ga), and Fried Tilapia in Curry Sauce which looked interesting. The Pho & Hu Tieu are listed as being made with Fresh Noodles.

                                                                              Banh Xeo here is $9 and filled with pork, chicken, shrimp, and sprouts.

                                                                              First out was the veggie plate which seemed a little sparse with just lettuce and mint plus a fistful of pickled daikon and carrots. Note: It would have come with cilantro as well, but I preemptively deleted them (tastes soapy to me).

                                                                              A few minutes later the Banh Xeo came out with a darker area in the middle and some holes like Anh Hong. This is the only place that supplied a knife, which is a nice touch. At first glance, the proteins looked a little sparse, but there was more buried in and under the sprouts.

                                                                              The crepe had coconut flavor to it and was nice and crispy, but the bottom was on the greasy side, I think from the cooking of the fillings. I ended up leaving some of the bottom half untouched and stuck with the fillings and crisp top half. The dark spot you can see in the first Banh Xeo picture did taste burned so also needed to be avoided.

                                                                              I'd put it mid-pack.

                                                                              The fried tilapia with curry sauce and other rice plates I saw coming out of the kitchen looked pretty good. Didn't see any pho come out while I was there. Will definitely be back and try other menu items.

                                                                              ------------
                                                                              Ma Me House
                                                                              416 15th St
                                                                              Oakland, CA

                                                                               
                                                                               
                                                                               
                                                                               
                                                                              1. s
                                                                                sundeck sue May 18, 2013 10:54 AM

                                                                                This is un-Chowhound-ish on a couple counts, I know, but I was @ the Slanted Door and saw this on the menu--and didn't get it (the politics of ordering w/ a group--plus I often feel a bit carb-ed out from Banh Xeo, greens et. al. notwithstanding, and was in the mood for lighter fare).

                                                                                But was curious as to whether anyone has tried it @ the Slanted Door and had thoughts.

                                                                                (to redeem myself somewhat and "earn" my query, I did try it @ Tay Ho in Oakland a couple weeks back--didn't post because I essentially agreed with other views on this thread--which is to say, I liked their rendition--makes me think I should remember to click the "recommend" tab when I think I'll just be repeating what someone else says--the Chowhound version of the wise Quaker expression: "that Friend speaks my mind").

                                                                                11 Replies
                                                                                1. re: sundeck sue
                                                                                  Windy May 18, 2013 11:03 AM

                                                                                  Ruth recommended Slanted Door's version at the top of the thread.

                                                                                  1. re: Windy
                                                                                    s
                                                                                    sundeck sue May 18, 2013 12:15 PM

                                                                                    dutifully read all the way down--and missed it....

                                                                                    1. re: sundeck sue
                                                                                      Windy May 18, 2013 12:50 PM

                                                                                      I can't figure out where replies are any more. The settings seem to be different on each of my devices.

                                                                                      1. re: Windy
                                                                                        Glencora May 18, 2013 01:26 PM

                                                                                        I know, it's weird .

                                                                                  2. re: sundeck sue
                                                                                    Civil Bear May 19, 2013 07:47 AM

                                                                                    Banh Xeo has carbs?

                                                                                    1. re: Civil Bear
                                                                                      wolfe May 19, 2013 08:35 AM

                                                                                      YMMV
                                                                                      Calories 246.6
                                                                                      Total Fat 9.8 g

                                                                                      Saturated Fat 7.1 g
                                                                                      Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g
                                                                                      Monounsaturated Fat 1.4 g
                                                                                      Cholesterol 67.9 mg
                                                                                      Sodium 319.0 mg
                                                                                      Potassium 299.6 mg
                                                                                      Total Carbohydrate 25.4 g
                                                                                      Dietary Fiber 1.5 g
                                                                                      Sugars 1.0 g
                                                                                      Protein 15.2 g

                                                                                      1. re: wolfe
                                                                                        Windy May 19, 2013 01:45 PM

                                                                                        That's awfully precise, Wolfe :)

                                                                                        1. re: Windy
                                                                                          wolfe May 19, 2013 03:38 PM

                                                                                          It's all relative to your portion size
                                                                                          Nutrition based on this recipe model. What the heck is .17 serving of Nuoc Cham?
                                                                                          Calories per serving of Vietnamese Crepe (banh Xeo)
                                                                                          Rice flour, white, (25 grams)
                                                                                          Pork Chops (pork loin), roasted, (0.88 oz)
                                                                                          Shrimp, cooked, (0.88 oz)
                                                                                          Coconut Milk (Silk), (0.14 cup)
                                                                                          Nuoc Cham dipping sauce, (0.17 serving)
                                                                                          Bean sprouts, (0.17 cup)
                                                                                          Scallions, raw, (0.08 cup, chopped)
                                                                                          Romaine Lettuce (salad), (1.67 inner leaf)
                                                                                          Basil, (1.67 leaves)(1.67 inner leaf)

                                                                                      2. re: Civil Bear
                                                                                        grayelf May 19, 2013 10:04 AM

                                                                                        I think the carbs mainly come from rice flour, though I certainly would love to be corrected on that.

                                                                                        1. re: grayelf
                                                                                          moto May 19, 2013 11:29 AM

                                                                                          coconut milk has some carbs, but there isn't much in a single crepe. calories, and calories from fats in the dish, are a different story of course.

                                                                                        2. re: Civil Bear
                                                                                          Robert Lauriston May 19, 2013 12:04 PM

                                                                                          The crepe is mostly rice flour, which is about 80% non-fiber carbs by weight. Most recipes also call for a little sugar, and there's a trace of carbs in the coconut milk.

                                                                                      3. Alice Patis May 29, 2013 03:54 PM

                                                                                        I went to 2 places in San Jose to compare & contrast their banh xeo. This report is for Thien Long at 3005 Silver Creek Road, the site of a Chowdown some years past. Normally if I’m with others we’ll order their famous Cha Ca (Hanoi style grilled fish) or if I’m solo I’ll get chicken pho, pho ap chao (like chowfun but with noodle “bricks”) or bun rieu oc (snail & crab noodle soup). But since it’s May I got the banh xeo, which is $7.50 for a decently big one.

                                                                                        Their banh xeo is of the “thick & golden brown” camp rather than the thin & crispy camp. While it looks pretty and was mostly crispy, it was very greasy on the bottom half, while slightly underdone on the inside. It’s served folded 1/4th of the way so you can see the filling, but that annoys me and when I tried to fold it in half the soft inside combined with the crunchy outside caused it to break :(.

                                                                                        Filling here were 3 plump whole peeled deveined shrimps, thin sliced lean pork, a scattering of boiled mung beans and a bucket full of sprouts (I kid you not). While the shrimp & pork were sautéed to perfect doneness, the sprouts here are not cooked, so with only the leftover heat these were almost raw. With such a high sprouts to banh xeo ratio I was left with about half the sprouts when I was done eating (and most of the mung beans, which spilled out no matter how good I am with chopsticks).

                                                                                        Veggie platter was appropriately mounded high, but there were really only 2 big pieces of lettuce. The herbs included were tiet to (purple perilla), mint, and what some are calling green perilla but is really kinh gio (Vietnamese balm) which has a lemony taste and is less bitter than shiso and which I really like with banh xeo. Cukes were not too thick and not bitter. Lettuces were dripping wet and I used 5 napkins to dry them. I think they do this on purpose so you know they wash their greens.

                                                                                        The nuoc cham was weak (as are all places nowadays) and had pickled carrot & green papaya (but I thought they used to give you more than a couple of measly slices).

                                                                                        All in all it was yummy but greasy, I just nitpick because it could’ve been better. Next report is coming.

                                                                                        Oops, I made a mistake while uploading photos and the very last photo below is a banh xeo from a different place. I guess you can think of it as a preview of my next report.

                                                                                         
                                                                                         
                                                                                         
                                                                                         
                                                                                         
                                                                                         
                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Alice Patis
                                                                                          drewskiSF May 29, 2013 05:00 PM

                                                                                          "green perilla" guy hangs head in shame . . .

                                                                                          1. re: Alice Patis
                                                                                            Cynsa May 29, 2013 05:03 PM

                                                                                            Hello, Alice, and Welcome Home; we're happy to read your post. We had banh xeo for lunch today at Sao Bien and Vietnam House, reminiscing about our lunches at Vung Tau
                                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/41870
                                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5482...

                                                                                            1. re: Alice Patis
                                                                                              Dave MP May 30, 2013 10:42 AM

                                                                                              Great report, and nice pictures!

                                                                                            2. Melanie Wong May 30, 2013 12:08 AM

                                                                                              Banh Xeo Tao Ngo --- I’d noticed this specialty restaurant when driving south on Senter Road trying to avoid the back-ups on 101. DoM for May was a good reason to check it out.

                                                                                              The filling for the standard Banh Xeo, $8.49, included shrimp, pork, squid, bean sprouts, and green (mung) beans. Additions of beef or chicken can be added for $1.25 more apiece. As shown on the menu photo, a vegetarian version is also available.

                                                                                              The plate of herbs was gorgeous: mustard leaf, green leaf lettuce, mint, shiso, and fish mint, plus carrot and daikon pickles. The nuoc mam was notably tuned toward the spicy end of the spectrum.
                                                                                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniewong/8736543923/lightbox/

                                                                                              The rice crepe was faintly yellow and moderately scorched. Neither thick nor thin, this was medium with a distinctly hard crunch. Mung beans and bits of green onion were embedded in the inside surface.
                                                                                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniewong/8737664970/lightbox/

                                                                                              The bean sprouts were warmed through, wouldn’t call them cooked. The thickish sautéed pieces of flavorful pork included both chewier shoulder and soft fatty belly meat for a nice contrast. http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniewong/8737665108/lightbox/

                                                                                              No tail shells on the shrimp. Both the squid and shrimp were cooked on point. The meat and seafood were distributed evenly over the surface.
                                                                                              http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                                                              My one criticism of this version would be of the rice crepe wrapper itself. The crepe turned soggy on the bottom side and was not as thin and lacy as I prefer. Delicious enough and satisfactory on every other count.

                                                                                              Banh Xeo Tao Ngo Restaurant
                                                                                              2651 Senter Rd
                                                                                              San Jose
                                                                                              408-297-9999
                                                                                              9am to 9pm
                                                                                              Closed Tuesday

                                                                                               
                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                Ruth Lafler May 30, 2013 10:03 AM

                                                                                                Sounds yummy. In reviewing restaurant menus looking for banh xeo I noticed that Xyclo in Oakland also includes calamari in their version.

                                                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                  drewskiSF May 30, 2013 10:05 AM

                                                                                                  looks like you can also add a fried egg for $0.99

                                                                                                  1. re: drewskiSF
                                                                                                    Windy May 30, 2013 06:54 PM

                                                                                                    Ugh. Like a hipster curse.

                                                                                                    1. re: Windy
                                                                                                      Melanie Wong May 30, 2013 06:57 PM

                                                                                                      Well, they're so hip at BXTN, they only list the egg in Vietnamese under the vegetarian option and don't translate it into English!

                                                                                                      Thanks, drewski, I glanced right over it. The only word there I know offhand is trung.

                                                                                                  2. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                    Alice Patis May 30, 2013 10:58 AM

                                                                                                    LOL, Melanie beat me to a report of Banh Xeo Tao Ngo. I went here last week but misplaced my notes until today. I’ll chime in to agree mostly with Melanie, but mine was crispy on the bottom and until the end. Mine looks just like Melanie’s, folded 1/4th of the way. In my last picture I redistributed the filling and refolded it halfway. I usually prefer the thick & golden brown kind since they are usually fully crispy to the point of being crunchy, but I liked this one. Not greasy and a nice fragrance of coconut milk.

                                                                                                    Based on past experience here, you can specify which 3 proteins you want for $8.49, and add a 4th or 5th for $1.25 each. They all include mung bean and sprouts unless you request them omitted. I like that the mung bean is ground or soft enough it integrates with the crepe, as Melanie noticed. My sprouts were a bit softened from leftover heat like hers and like Melanie I don’t usually order banh xeo because the sprouts are never steamed enough for me. I also don’t like fish herb, dripping wet greens or the weak nuoc cham. But this place makes a decent banh xeo.

                                                                                                    But still, since tomorrow is the last day of May, I might revisit the grandmama of all BX places, the stall at Grand Century Mall, to see if it's still up to par.

                                                                                                     
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                    1. re: Alice Patis
                                                                                                      Ruth Lafler May 30, 2013 11:52 AM

                                                                                                      Looking forward to a report on the GCM place -- I've eyed the offerings there several times but the timing has never been right to order one.

                                                                                                      1. re: Alice Patis
                                                                                                        Melanie Wong May 30, 2013 12:34 PM

                                                                                                        Ha! Guess I now know the little voice that prodded me to stay up after midnight to get that post up. :)

                                                                                                        Don't know if you're looking for company tomorrow, but here are two folks lusting to join you.
                                                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9030...

                                                                                                        Wish I could be there, but won't be anywhere near.

                                                                                                    2. Melanie Wong May 31, 2013 12:07 AM

                                                                                                      Song Ngu in Milpitas has the answer for the wrapping-impaired among you. The familiar rice crepe is served as a roll wrapped up in rice paper. Behold, banh xeo cuon:
                                                                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniewong/8898824184/lightbox/

                                                                                                      The turmeric-stained rice crepe element is quite thin and picks up color and flavor from a fair amount of browning. A few shrimp (with tail shells), pieces of dryish pork, snappily aligned bean sprouts, and a bonus deep-fried cha ram crunchy eggroll thingy are layered with green leaf lettuce and fresh mint and swaddled tightly in rice paper. In effect, this turns out to be mostly lettuce. Here’s a closer look at the cross-section:
                                                                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniewong/8898829636/lightbox/

                                                                                                      What really makes this work is the dipping sauce. The flavor balance tilts toward sour and spicy. Quite sour, in fact, with a lip-curling tartness unmitigated by sweetness. Basically the polar opposite of what most others serve up.

                                                                                                      http://www.songngurestaurant.com/

                                                                                                      ETA: Some photos on the web of other versions of banh xeo cuon (all in Vietnam, not here).
                                                                                                      http://www.vietgiaitri.com/an-choi/am-thuc/2013/05/nham-nhi-banh-xeo-cuon-cham-ngo-nho-ha-noi/
                                                                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinneepop/8006208891/
                                                                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinneepop/8006211464/
                                                                                                      http://paragonhousedining.com.vn/imag...

                                                                                                       
                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                        Dave MP May 31, 2013 09:03 AM

                                                                                                        Cool! Do they call it banh xeo cuon on the menu, too?

                                                                                                        1. re: Dave MP
                                                                                                          Melanie Wong May 31, 2013 01:28 PM

                                                                                                          Yep. And this was the only version I could find on the web that wraps in rice paper. The other bx cuon use the crepe as the wrapper.

                                                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                            Civil Bear Jun 1, 2013 08:37 AM

                                                                                                            Now where talkin'! Love those pix.

                                                                                                            1. re: Civil Bear
                                                                                                              Melanie Wong Jun 2, 2013 06:59 PM

                                                                                                              Thanks, essentially it's a spring roll with the addition of a layer of rice crepe and the eggroll thingy. Easy-peasy to eat, hope you try it some time.

                                                                                                      2. Ruth Lafler May 31, 2013 11:45 AM

                                                                                                        Mini banh xeo crawl in Oakland Chinatown last night -- I picked a couple of places where the banh xeo had specifically been mentioned on yelp.

                                                                                                        First, Kim Huong, 304 Tenth St. (at Harrison). This restaurant is actually "Michelin recommended" which given its relatively bare-bones atmosphere, gives me a little more respect for Michelin reviewers (they could have picked more glossy/Americanized places like Xyclo or Vo's). When I walked in around 7 p.m. the place was completely deserted except for the owner having dinner next to the kitchen, but a few more tables filled while I was eating. The menu I got was entirely in English -- don't know if I got a "gringo" version or not.

                                                                                                        The banh xeo ($7.95) came with a nice pile of lettuce and herbs, which turned out to be exclusively mint (photo left). I asked the owner if I could have some basil, and she brought me another plate with both Thai basil and cilantro. She then took an interest in me and gave me instructions on how to wrap and dip it --I have to admit that in the past I had always drizzled the nouc mam into the wrap instead of dipping it, but following her instructions found the dipping was indeed better. She also rearranged my plates to make it easier for me. :-)

                                                                                                        This banh xeo was notable for being almost completely grease-free. Seeing me poking around inside, she explained that the meat was added to the bottom of the crepe as it was cooked, which meant there isn't any additional grease from cooking the filling (the bean sprouts were apparently added at the end and only warmed with the residual heat). There wasn't much meat, but the crepe itself was enjoyably savory (no coconut in this version). The crepe was on the thin end of the spectrum (just short of "lacy") and, with no added moisture, stayed crisp to the end. The nouc mam was on the spicier side, with visible bits of red chile and no shredded carrots.

                                                                                                        I'd give it a solid B for execution, with points off for no coconut, a limited selection of herbs and less meat than optimal. I'd also go back for other things because the owner was so nice!

                                                                                                        Then I walked across Chinatown to Miss Saigon #2 (417 7th St -- notable because it stays open much later than the typical pho joint).

                                                                                                        Miss Saigon #2 is a bit more glossy and Americanized, and I'd have to say the banh xeo ($9.95) was a bust: oily, bland, weak nouc mam without a hint of heat. Only two lettuce leaves (although with my recent instruction and practice, I made them work) and herbs including mint and cilantro but no basil (photo right). Service was very friendly, though.

                                                                                                         
                                                                                                         
                                                                                                        1. susancinsf May 31, 2013 01:37 PM

                                                                                                          So, I didn't see it below unless I missed it, but ALERT: does anyone have any recs for places to try Banh Xeo in the tri-valley (Pleasanton-Livermore area)? Will be through there tonight, and would love to sneak in under the May deadline to report on a version of what is one of my favorite dishes (and I can't get it here in Merced!). Reasonably close to 580 would be nice....I've heard mixed reports elsewhere about Saigon Cafe in Livermore. Any other ideas? Obviously, this is last minute, dinner will be at around seven tonight...

                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: susancinsf
                                                                                                            Melanie Wong May 31, 2013 01:46 PM

                                                                                                            The website for Sai's Three in Livermore has a photo of banh xeo front and center.
                                                                                                            http://saistlivermore.com/
                                                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/308878

                                                                                                            Recommended in this older post at Pho Asian Bistro in Dublin,
                                                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/545224#4143655
                                                                                                            It's #40 on the menu
                                                                                                            http://www.phoasianbistro.com/images/...

                                                                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                              Melanie Wong May 31, 2013 01:51 PM

                                                                                                              ETA: Scratch that . . . it's #39, pan fried crepe at Sai's.

                                                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                susancinsf May 31, 2013 10:05 PM

                                                                                                                Funny you should mention that....we ended up at Sai's, mostly because the crepe pic had star billing on the website ...but I had a moment of panic when I opened the menu, looked for #40, and saw it was something else...fortunately, hubby kept his head and found it at #39 :-)

                                                                                                                My report:

                                                                                                                The restaurant is definitely a 'Mom and Pop' operation (with Mom serving, Pop cooking, Grandpa greeting guests). In a strip mall only a block or two off the freeway. The location is a bit awkward (behind a motel, mostly closed businesses in the little strip mall), which may be why it was mostly empty when we arrived around seven tonight, though it did start to fill up later just before we left.

                                                                                                                Service was friendly and quick.

                                                                                                                I need to temper my remarks on the crepe with the note, as I think I mentioned above, that one cannot order banh xeo anywhere in Merced. Indeed, there is only one Vietnamese place and it is basically just a pho shop. I miss Vietnamese food like crazy.

                                                                                                                So, any crepe would taste good to me. Sai's was very thin and crispy and not at all greasy, though it was so thin there were a few holes in some parts and charred points elsewhere. Nice flavor for the actual crepe, the shrimp in the filling (along with bean sprouts) were already completely shelled and lacked a lot of flavor, I am guessing they had been frozen. Greens to accompany were only romaine (lovely romaine though), very fresh mint and cilantro; there was also shredded carrot. The sauce was more sweet than spicy.

                                                                                                                Overall I'd give it a solid B, but then I am grading on an easy curve...

                                                                                                                As for the rest of the meal, we had:

                                                                                                                -lemonade for me, lived up to its 'freshly made' billing.
                                                                                                                -Anchor Steam for hubby (which got extra points from hubby).
                                                                                                                -grilled pork spring rolls: these were delicious and tasted impeccably fresh; the chopped pork tasted like it had just come off the grill.
                                                                                                                -mongolian lamb, hubby's request. They had a lot of Chinese dishes on the menu, which made me a bit apprehensive (and I would have chosen the cumin lamb that was on the specials board),,,but actually the mongolian lamb was a strong version: boldly hot with whole red peppers, nice chunks of scallion, and the cook had a light hand with the sauce (no glop!). We polished it off with an order of steamed rice.

                                                                                                                Total for three dishes, a lemonade and two anchor steams with tax and generous tip was about $42.

                                                                                                                Not sure if I'd go back just for the crepe, but I'd definitely consider stopping by on my way to or from the Valley. Makes a great pit stop!

                                                                                                                and I am proud I made it in during May! :--)

                                                                                                                1. re: susancinsf
                                                                                                                  Melanie Wong May 31, 2013 11:33 PM

                                                                                                                  Proud of you too! And finally, someone found a thin, lacy version in the style that I prefer.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                    susancinsf Jun 1, 2013 07:16 AM

                                                                                                                    yes, thinking about it, the thin and lacy aspect was very nice, and was a successful component of my favorite version ever (mentioned earlier in the thread) at Star Noodle in Maui (I still dream of that dish!). What kept this one at Sai's from being a star was the filling, which was meh ...but I think judging just on the crepe itself, it passed the test.

                                                                                                                    Other than the shrimp in the crepe (which weren't bad, just flavorless), everything that came out of the kitchen tasted bright and fresh. That and the friendly service are what would pull me back in: not a destination, but it actually made an almost perfect Friday night stop on the way to a weekend escape to the City....

                                                                                                                  2. re: susancinsf
                                                                                                                    escargot3 May 31, 2013 11:54 PM

                                                                                                                    good job sneaking that one in just under the deadline.

                                                                                                                    fyi - in vietnam my fave banh xeo had holes in them that gave a slightly charred flavor to the dish.

                                                                                                                2. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                  susancinsf May 31, 2013 02:06 PM

                                                                                                                  Thanks Melanie...I also had just found Pho Asian Bistro in this older Banh Mi map:

                                                                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/585484

                                                                                                                  so may go with that one, but will report back!

                                                                                                                  Susan

                                                                                                              2. k
                                                                                                                karenfinan Jun 1, 2013 08:18 AM

                                                                                                                Just squeaked in under the wire, and went to Tay Ho in Oakland for lunch yesterday. This is the first time I had Banh xeo, and this version was.....ok, not great but not bad. The crepe was thin, no discernible coconut flavor, and only very slightly soggy on the bottom. I got the pork and shrimp version and the shrimp were just like rubber, pork was fine. Lettuce was good, fresh, lots of cilantro and mint, and some shredded carrots to add to the crepe. It was fun to eat, putting bits of the crepe into the lettuce with the mint, etc. I will go back to the restaurant, it is an easy walk from my office in Preservation Park, but not sure I'll order this from them next time. Wait staff very friendly and accommodating.

                                                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: karenfinan
                                                                                                                  Melanie Wong Jun 2, 2013 07:01 PM

                                                                                                                  Good on you for sliding into home base. Wonder if there are any other "late" reports to come.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                    Ruth Lafler Jun 2, 2013 07:27 PM

                                                                                                                    Ask and ye shall receive. Because someone had borrowed my car I missed out for the second time on early-closing Pho King on International, but I slid in just under the wire by getting banh xeo minutes before closing at Mama's (365 19th St Oakland).

                                                                                                                    Unfortunately, since they were about to close I had to get it to go. I was afraid it would get soggy on the way home, but I was assured it wouldn't and it actually held up quite well.

                                                                                                                    This was another solid rendition. On the thin side, crisp, and greaseless. The chicken was small chunks of previously fried chicken, which added flavor and kept it from being wet or greasy. I think there was some mung bean in it as well. Points off for lack of coconut and the only herb being cilantro, although there was a nice hank of pickled shredded carrot and daikon. Presumably if I'd eaten it in house I could have asked for some additional herbs. The nuoc mam had no heat but was quite vinegary, possibly with some malt vinegar.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                      Melanie Wong Jun 2, 2013 07:29 PM

                                                                                                                      Fried chicken!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                        drewskiSF Jun 2, 2013 08:00 PM

                                                                                                                        +1!

                                                                                                                        Will need to check it out

                                                                                                                        1. re: drewskiSF
                                                                                                                          Melanie Wong Jun 2, 2013 08:22 PM

                                                                                                                          But no shrimp?

                                                                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                            Ruth Lafler Jun 2, 2013 08:43 PM

                                                                                                                            Yes, there was some nice shrimp. I don't remember seeing any pork, though.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                              drewskiSF Jun 2, 2013 10:31 PM

                                                                                                                              I want to taste it.

                                                                                                                              It does say shrimp on the menu, but a fried chicken banh xeo sounds pretty good.

                                                                                                                          2. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                            Ruth Lafler Jun 2, 2013 08:45 PM

                                                                                                                            Yeah, I don't know if it's always like that, of if it was the end of the evening and they threw in what they had.

                                                                                                                    2. Ruth Lafler Aug 24, 2013 05:26 PM

                                                                                                                      Back in May, Pho King on International in Oakland's Little Saigon was on my list of places to try banh xeo. Unfortunately, it closes early and I never got there in time.

                                                                                                                      Today I stopped for lunch. The place was packed, with people waiting, but I was seated quickly and shortly afterwards it cleared out. It's not the cleanest place in the world, but the staff was very friendly.

                                                                                                                      Anyway, I'm glad I finally made the effort, because the banh xeo was the best I've had in Oakland: a deep yellow from turmeric and a distinct, if faint, hint of coconut. The amount of filling was about right, and the shrimp were plump and tasty; the bean sprouts were cooked through but still firm. The pancake was thin and very crisp. A little oily, perhaps, but not to its detriment. It came with three large romaine leaves and some mint and thai basil. The nuoc mam was quite good: sweet, tangy and a touch fishy, and not as watered down as some. A little heat and it would be perfect.

                                                                                                                      I'd give this a solid B+.

                                                                                                                      Pho King is closed on Tuesday and closes at 7 (6 on Sunday).

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                                                                        grayelf Nov 14, 2013 02:04 PM

                                                                                                                        I found an older, non-CH reference to the Vietnamese crepe at Aux Delices being delicate, crispy and good. Anyone tried it lately?

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