Few nations have had a greater influence on the culinary world than France, a country that serves as the origin of innumerable world-renowned chefs, highly-treasured dishes and widely used culinary techniques. Amid all the complex dishes and exotic ingredients that comprise French cuisine lies what may be among the most quintessentially French dish: the crepe.
These thin, wispy pancakes made from a simple, unleavened batter may be the most straightforward dish to come out of the land of Beef Bourguignon and Coq au Vin. What few realize is that crepes can take an entirely different form, more specifically in a Vietnamese dish called Banh Xeo.
I first came across Banh Xeo at the Manchester Taco Tour. Buba Noodle Bar was slinging a petit version of the dish, and I was instantly hooked. Fast forward about six weeks, and I found myself enjoying a full-sized version at the recently-opened Sun Asian bistro in Derry.
Also known as “Happy Pancakes,” a Banh Xeo consists of a rice flour-based, egg-free batter that is poured in a blazingly hot pan, thus forming a crisp outer crust. Tumeric adds a slight yellow hue.
The Banh Xeo at Sun Asian Bistro makes a statement when it hits the table, that statement being “I don’t mess around.” The exterior resembles a horribly overcooked omelet, with it’s seared surface and yellow color. Inside, it’s stuffed with bean sprouts, herbs and chopped pork and/or shrimp. You”ll find raw carrots, cucumbers, tomato slices, lettuce leaves and fish sauce on the side.
The whole this looks rather confusing and perhaps a bit intimidating. It’s easy to seep into a “What do I do now?” feeling.
You can eat it like an omelet is you’d like, but the authentic, messier and more enjoyable method involves cutting off a piece, stuffing it in a lettuce leaf with the reserved raw vegetables and shoving the whole package in your mouth.
The crepe has a crisp exterior and a slightly mealy interior that resembles a cross between an omelet and a corn tortilla, if you can imagine that. Also, don’t be scared of the fish sauce. It adds a salty pungency that brings everything together.
In addition to this oddity, Sun offers an array of Thai and Vietnamese dishes such as multiple variations of Pho, noodle dishes, fried rice and summer rolls. They even offer a traditional Banh Mi sandwich.
Sun is located in at 91 W Broadway Derry, NH in the former Heritage spot. They’re open for lunch and dinner and are closed on Monday.
All Images Provided by Nicholas VonSchantz-Ricci
Originally published in Unconventionaleatsnh.com