Banh khot is a popular dish in South-Central Vietnam. Those who have tried it say that Banh khot really stands out from the rest because of its crispy texture on the outside, blended with the smooth and creamy filling in the middle, and supplemented by the variety of fresh vegetables. All of these tastes combined go well with the sweet-salty dipping sauce.
Quite similar to other Vietnamese wrap and roll, a set of Banh khot includes 3 main components: the Banh khot itself - the mini rice pancakes with different toppings, a variety of herbs, and the dipping sauce.
The pancake batter is a combination of mostly rice flour (cornstarch may be added), coconut milk, turmeric powder, and chopped green onion. Coconut milk gives Banh khot a very creamy and rich texture. Sometimes, coconut milk is not added to the batter but cooked separately until it condenses into a white thick creamy sauce, and then added on top of the Banh khot when it is served.
Turmeric powder gives the mini pancakes a slightly golden yellow hue, but you can opt out of it if you prefer. The topping varies from scallops, fresh shrimp, and minced pork to fish balls, or mung beans for a vegetarian preference.
A Banh Khot dish with three kinds of toppings: fresh shrimp, minced meat, and fish balls at Banh Khot Co Ba Vung Tau
If you have tried Bun cha or Pho, these herbs and leafy greens are similarly paired, including mint, Thai basil, fish mint, lettuce, perilla, and mustard greens. These herbs are varied with restaurants’ recipes.
Last but not least, the fish sauce can be supplemented with freshly shredded carrot, daikon, and chilies.
The dipping sauce of Banh khot
Banh Khot has a bigger and thinner version called Banh Xeo (sizzling savory crepe). Therefore, these dishes are usually offered together in restaurants. In fact, the batter and condiments are the same, but the cooking technique is different.
Banh xeo and Banh khot
Banh Khot also has a very similar sister dish named Banh can. The shapes and sizes of the two dishes are identical and served with a similar sauce. However, there are a few differences. Banh khot is topped with shrimps or minced pork while Banh can have quail eggs or chicken eggs on top. Also, the mold of Banh khot is made out of iron, but Banh can is made out of clay. Banh khot is well-known in Vung Tau, while Banh can has its reputation in Da Lat, a touristy city in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
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According to skillful Banh khot chefs, the origin of Banh khot comes from Central Vietnam such as Binh Thuan, Ninh Thuan, and Khanh Hoa Provinces. When people there migrated to the South, they brought their traditional dish and gradually changed the taste to meet the needs of locals.
The name "Khot", as explained by many, was an imitation of the sound of a spoon hitting the mold when people take these mini pancakes out of the pan. In the old days, the poor couldn't afford to eat meat or expensive food except for this pancake. Therefore, people named the cake "Khop", meaning poverty (an ancient word). Over time, the word "Khop" changed to "Khot".
It is fun to make Banh khot since both the cooking method and the preparation do not require complex techniques and ingredients.
You can buy or make the rice powder yourself by soaking rice in water for 2-3 hours until it is softened, then grinding and incubating it overnight. After that, mix the prepared rice flour with all the ingredients according to personal preference as mentioned above. The coconut milk can be added at this stage or later as a garnishing sauce.
Heat the Banh khot pan on the oven and cover it with a thin layer of oil. Then, pour the batter into the molds, add the shrimps, place lids on top and let them cook for about 4 mins or until the cakes change into golden brown and crispy on the outside but soft in the middle.
When they are done, brush each Banh khot with scallion oil to make them easier to take out of the iron pan and sprinkle with a dash of minced dried prawns. When the cakes' outer get crispy, use a spoon to remove the mini pancakes from the pan.
And finally put some carrots, daikon, red chili, and salty-sweet fish sauce in a small bowl and serve the Banh khot with a basket full of greens.
The way of eating Banh khot perfectly embodies the Vietnamese style of eating a wrap and roll. Eating Banh khot is a good opportunity for socializing because families and friends can gather and chat while making and eating Banh khot.
Firstly, put some shredded green papaya into the fish sauce, you can add some red chili if you want to add a little heat. After that, use the big leaf such as lettuce or mustard greens as a wrap, then take a mini pancake, place it in the middle, layer it with extra herbs and wrap everything up in your palm, and dip the roll in the bowl of salty-sweet fish sauce.
What makes this food special is that every roll can be different, depending on the type of herbs you use in your wrapping.
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Going around Ho Chi Minh City, you can find Banh khot either in rollaway carts on the pavements or in fancy restaurants. Each place has its own style and its own recipe offering you a distinctive taste of Banh khot. Sitting in on the sidewalks or local markets, you can see how locals run their business on bustling streets full of people and motorbikes. In contrast, sitting in a well-designed restaurant could help you slow down a little to enjoy authentic vintage Vietnam with the green space of bamboo and banana trees.
Since Banh xeo and Banh khot are very similar, chances are that you can also find Banh khot at Banh xeo restaurants
40B Tran Cao Van, Ward 6, District 3
216 Pham Thai Buong, Tan Phong Ward, District 7
Opening hours: 8 AM - 11 PM
Price: VND 75,000
This restaurant has a reputation for offering one of the most high-quality Banh khot in Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City. Besides Banh khot, there are plenty of other traditional Vietnamese specialties (including vegetarian dishes) like Banh Xeo, and noodles dishes, along with popular drinks such as coffee and sodas at affordable prices.
There are plenty of Vietnamese dishes being served at Co Ba Vung Tau Restaurant
At this restaurant, the construction, design, and materials will bring you back to the peaceful countryside with a tiled roof, wooden furniture, and staff dressed in traditional costume, Ao ba ba. When entering this place, you would feel like dining at a local's house with green decorations from native plants like bamboo trees and banana trees.
Co Ba Vung Tau Restaurant has extremely convenient locations and very spacious views
The interior perfectly represents the classic design in Southern Vietnam
Banh khot with various toppings served at Co Ba Vung Tau Restaurant
Address: 178 Nguyen Van Dau, Ward 7, Binh Thanh District
Opening hours: 10 AM - 10 PM
Price: VND 35,000 - VND 55,000
Banh khot Co Lien is a small restaurant located at a busy junction in Binh Thanh District. As the cooking station is right outside, you can witness how Banh khot is made, and how skillful the chefs are while listening to the sizzle of the Banh khot mold. The downside of this place is that it is quite small and hot (no air conditioner). Also, there is limited staff, so the service is slow and you have to wait for your food. However, its big plus is the quality of food is stunning.
The cooking station at Banh Khot Co Lien
The inner space at Banh Khot Co Lien
Banh Khot Co Lien is the white Banh khot (without the turmeric starch in the batter)
Address: 103 Ngo Quyen, Ward 11, District 5
Opening hours: 9 AM - 9 PM
Price: VND 55,000
As explained above, Banh xeo usually comes together with Banh khot. Therefore, this restaurant is named Banh xeo, but they also serve Banh khot. And both of them are signature dishes of this restaurant. Besides, they serve other Vietnamese dishes here such as Banh canh, Bun thit nuong, and spring rolls. A great drink to go with this is a cooling fresh coconut.
Banh khot with shrimps at Banh xeo Ngoc Son
Banh Xeo Ngoc Son is crowded with both Vietnamese and travelers wanting to try out the Banh khot. This place has good food - an extremely savory dish (fresh shrimps and very crunchy Banh khot). However, two things you should consider are the hygiene and the layout of the restaurant; they are not as good as the first location that we mentioned above.
Although many might have heard about Banh xeo, Banh khot could turn out to be your favorite choice once you have tried it because of its bite-sized forms and its savory flavor as well. Make sure to give it a try if you travel to Vietnam.
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