Banh Xeo is a Southern speciality and not as common in Hanoi, but I got a good recommendation for one so, of course Jung and I went. We had a difficult time finding this place and we were about to just give up, but just when we were about to call it quits, we found it. The address I wrote down said 117 Thai Ha, but it seemed like it skipped over a chunk of numbers. We completely missed this sign tucked away next to the side of the building, pointing to the side street.
So beware, it's not quite on Thai Ha street, you have to go down the side street and you'll see it on your right hand side. If I recall, the white sign was in front of a car body shop.
We walked inside this large indoor space. We pointed to what everyone else was eating and she quickly brought over a plate of rice paper cut in half and a mound of lettuce, mint, cilantro and bean sprouts. Typically in the south, you get a mountain of mustard leaves, lettuce and herbs to wrap the banh xeo in, but here, the lettuce was chopped, so I presume the rice paper serves as the wrapping mechanism.
Soon thereafter these fried rice flour pancakes filled with bean sprouts, grilled pork and shrimp arrived.
It's crunchy and crispy on the outside and inside, it's stuffed with grilled pork, shrimp and bean sprouts. Yummy!
Here's me demonstrating the task at hand. You take a piece of rice paper, add a layer of lettuce and various herbs, then add a piece of the pancake, try your best to roll it up, dip it in the nuoc mam pha (Vietnamese fish sauce) and devour.
I'm sure eating the pancakes alone would have been good as is, but eating them with fresh lettuce and herbs makes it all the more tasty. I wish I had taken a close up of the herbs because there were so many herbs I've never seen before. Some were peppery, others minty, and together with the fish sauce, they helped balance out the slight greasiness of the pancakes. Even though we were eating fried pancakes, it didn't feel heavy at all because you end up eating a mountain of fresh lettuce and herbs with it.