Banh xeo bigger than your face. It's hard not to feel your heart flutter when the giant-sized Vietnamese pancake descends on your table at Thy Vietnamese Eatery. They pump these out all day and night, churned out by a small team of wizened women. The signature hiss when the turmeric-tinted batter hits the pan gives the dish its name. Banh xeo means sizzling cake. The real test of a good banh xeo is its crispness. Thy takes out the crown, hands down.
Banh beo $11
Steamed rice flour cakes with dried shrimp
Thy sits among a cluster of Vietnamese grocery stores, bakeries and fruit shops on Chapel Street South in Bankstown. Everything is reassuringly casual. Expect cutlery in a communal metal canister on each table, serviettes from a tissue box and pour-your-own tea from a giant thermos. The menu can be confusing at first, repeated in both English and Vietnamese, but photos of the dishes make ordering a lot easier.
Fried bread and mung beans on top of the banh beo
Grab a table outside for a real street food experience. It makes the ideal setting for banh beo, a Hue snack traditionally sold by the side of the street. These steamed rice flour cakes are shaped to look like the lily flower pads that surrounded Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Thy does a sneaky substitute with croutons instead of pork crackling on top, but the mungo beans, fried shallots and green onion still make these a textural party in the mouth.
Goi cuon $8
Fresh rice paper rolls
Goi cuon fresh rice paper rolls, also known as summer rolls, are terrific too. They're made to order so the rice paper is still soft and pliable, jam-packed and rolled tightly with pork, vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, lettuce, mint, garlic chives and perfectly aligned prawns.
Banh xeo tom thit $13.50
Vietnamese pancake with prawn and pork
Ordering the banh xeo is a given. It'll take about ten minutes. The arrival of the banquet-sized plate usually heralds a frantic game of table tetris.
Prawn, pork and beansprouts inside the banh xeo
There are a couple of variations of filling you can choose but we tend to stick with the standard pork and prawn combo, embedded into the crepe during the cooking process. The local's way to eat this is to tear off a wedge of banh xeo and then wrap it up in lettuce with as much mint, perilla and mustard leaf as you please. Dunk it in the bowl of nuoc cham fish sauce dressing provided and resign yourself to getting messy.
If you'd rather not get hands on, you can mix up everything in your bowl instead - nuoc cham included - and then try and appear a little more civilised using fork or chopsticks to transfer it to your mouth. Good luck.
Crisp and lacy pancake edges
The best part about banh xeo is definitely the edge bits. Make sure noone steals your share. Although banh xeo is often called a pancake in English, it's more of a crepe in lightness and texture. Being able to cook banh xeo super thin and crisp without having it break or burn is an artform.
Bun rieu $11.50
Pork and crab noodle soup
Mix things up with bun rieu, a pork and crab noodle soup that comes with a refreshingly tangy tomato broth. You'll also find slices of pork, pigs blood, fish cakes, fluffy crab balls and lots of fresh coriander.
Banh cuon thit cha $12
Steamed rice noodle rolls with pork mince and cha lua Vietnamese pork slices
Banh cuon is another revered favourite by regulars. A special fermented rice batter is poured into a thin layer over a steamer and then rolled up with pork mince when cooked.
Banh cuon steamed rice noodle rolls with pork mince and black fungus
The rice noodles are warm and sticky, cuddled around a smattering of pork mince and crunchy black fungus. Douse this with nuoc cham and eat together with lettuce, mint and as many fried shallots as you can manage. Half moons of sliced cha lua on the side are the same porky deliciousness you find in banh mi thit pork rolls.
Banh hoi chao tom $13.50
Barbecue prawn paste with rice noodles, herbs and roll-your-own rice paper sheets
Still hungry? Go to town with banh hoi chao tom, a roll-your-own fiesta of barbecued prawn paste, vermicelli and salad in rice paper. The trick is to keep your filling even in shape and to roll the rice paper around it tightly. Then you know what happens next. Dunk that cigar into that sweet nuoc cham fish sauce dressing. Bon appetit.
Thy Vietnamese Eatery
1/316-324 Chapel Road South, Bankstown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9708 2317
Monday to Thursday 9am-7pm
Friday to Sunday 9am-9pm
Also at 11/9 Hughes Street, Cabramatta
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6/17/2016 12:58:00 am