What is banh chao? It is something so glorious that it attacks all your senses at once! The color, the sizzle, the smell, the taste, and skip the silverware and chopsticks, you’re eating this bad boy with your hands. That’s right, banh chao is food of course and its hands down one of my favorite meals. In the simplest description banh chao is a savory crepe, Cambodian style. (It’s a variation of the Vietnamese crepe, banh xeo-which can be ordered at most pho restaurants in Seattle). Have you ever loved something so much that words could not even describe it? That’s how I feel about banh chao. No description can explain the emotion of happiness that overwhelms me when I take a bite into this crispy, savory, tangy crepe.
Let me deconstruct this dish and explain what makes it so delicious. The crepe itself is thin, crispy, light and a magnificent, vibrant yellow. The batter consists of glutinous rice flour, water and turmeric. My mom’s recipe calls for one egg, but most recipes don’t, and I feel like the egg adds another layer of richness that I don’t find when I order this at a restaurant. Turmeric is where the bright yellow color comes from and it’s a spice that has very distinct flavor. The crepe on it’s own is amazing, but let’s talk about the filling.
The filling is a combination of ground chicken, shrimp and garlic that is browned and then tossed onto the crepe. Sliced onions and bean sprouts are tossed in right before the crepe is folded. The onions and bean sprouts gives the crepe a nice snap and crunch. The filling is lightly seasoned with salt and white pepper, because the magic comes from the dipping sauce.
This dipping sauce is amazing. The main ingredient is fish sauce which is very pungent, but when mixed with water, sugar, fresh lime, garlic, Thai chili peppers and sprinkled with chopped roasted peanuts, it becomes something so fantastic that you forget how weird fish sauce really is.
This crepe doesn’t end there. It’s served with an assortment of fresh vegetables and herbs, such as mustard greens, cucumbers, Thai basil and fresh mint. The standard way to eat this, is to place some of the crepe into a mustard green leaf. The idea is to use the greens somewhat as a wrap or a scoop. A layer of sliced cucumbers and fresh mint is added, everything is scooped into the dipping sauce. The process is messy, but it’s well worth it. You get a combination of tangy, slightly sweet, crispy, salty and savory all in one bite. I think it’s the most perfect food in the world. I saw a Guy Fieri eat one on his TV show and he about lost his mind, it made me feel so validated and all I could think was “Yup, that’s how I feel about it too.”
So next time you go get Pho see if they have a crepe on the menu, I bet you will enjoy it.
Hi! My name is Rithy (pronounced “Raw-Tee”). I am the Lending Product and System Specialist for Verity Credit Union. Although I am new to Verity Credit Union, I have worked for Not for Profit Credit Unions for over eight years (and counting). My previous roles included everything from Teller, Loan Processor, Shared Branch Administrator, Accounting to Credit Analyst. In 2011, I completed my Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Washington in Communications and Social Sciences. I love my current role at Verity Credit Union. I am responsible for research and development of new loan products and assist in managing our loan operating systems. I am learning new things every day and that excites me!
I live in Seattle and enjoy eating and running, but preferably not at the same time (trust me, gets too messy). I’m lucky enough to say I got to marry my best friend, who also happens to enjoy eating and running. In my free time, I also love to cook and spend time with family and friends. My family loves to get together and celebrate, and we celebrate in the best way possible, with lots and lots of food! Even when I’m not celebrating with family, I often find myself cooking meals for at least 6 people, even though it’s just for my husband and me. My love for food is also the main reason in why I enjoy to run!