These tasty little Vietnamese pancakes are a staple in our household as they are quick to prepare, delightfully colourful on the plate and naturally vegan and gluten free. They are filled with this colourful salad and I just love the juxtaposition of textures with the soft pancake wrapped around the crunchy salad inside, and likewise with the contrasting flavours of the mellow turmeric and coconut pancake and the sharp spicy sour flavour of the sauce. It is a match made in heaven!
I’m sorry it’s been a little quiet on the blog recently… new job and new puppy are both taking their toll on me at the moment! We have fostered a rescue puppy who is cute as can be but keeping me up all hours of the night and keeping me busy during the day!
Coupled with starting a new job which I’m finding a little stressful as I find my confidence; sleep deprived and learning to juggle work and home schooling and puppy training, it has been a roller coaster of a month so far!
This recipe is based on the Vietnamese dish Bánh Xèo which are delicious turmeric and coconut pancakes with a tasty filling. They are traditionally made with rice flour so are naturally gluten-free and because there is no egg in them, they are a great vegan crepe recipe! Apparently, the name refers to the loud sound the rice batter makes when it is poured into the hot skillet (source: Wikipedia). In Vietnam, these crepes would usually contain pork or prawns so they would be off limits to vegans but I think my fresh crunchy salad version is preferable anyway!
Adapting for Children
The other great thing about these pancakes is that they are really easy to adapt for children so it’s a great “eating the rainbow” family meal! Whilst my husband and I would eat the spicy, salad filled version, I just siphon off some of the sauce before I add the chilli for the childrens’ version and, since they are not good at eating salad, I quickly stir fry the salad and they have it cooked inside the pancakes instead.
For julienning vegetables, I have a little julienne peeler which looks exactly like the Y-shaped vegetable peelers but with a jagged edge. It makes it so easy to prepare vegetables in this way, especially the carrots, and I think it makes a big difference to the lightness of the dish to have the vegetables so finely sliced. This is the julienne peeler that I have and it works perfectly for me! (Affiliate Link)
To do it by hand instead, just slice the carrot as thinly as possible and then turn the slices on their side and slice again as thinly as possible until you have shapes that look like matchsticks. For the cabbage, you can just slice if really finely or use a normal vegetable peeler to peel off lots of thin slices at once!
This dish is perfect to serve as a light lunch for guests on a bright sunny day because the bright colours are so cheering and you can keep each part separately in sealed containers in the fridge. Then when you’re ready to eat, you fry the pancakes from the pre-made batter and toss a little sauce into the salad.
- Make the salad up to 4 hours ahead but don't add the dressing. Keep the salad in a covered bowl in the fridge.
- Make the dressing ahead and keep separately in the fridge. This dressing will happily keep for a few days in the fridge.
- For the pancakes, either:
- make the batter in advance (up to a day ahead) and keep it in a sealed container in the fridge until you are ready to cook the pancakes; or
- make the pancakes a few hours ahead and keep in the fridge then warm for 5 minutes in the oven (or air fryer) at about 80-100°C wrapped in foil lined with baking paper (see this article for why I don't like my foil to touch my food while cooking) or just quickly re-fry the pancakes on each side to heat them up.
Making the pancakes in advance means that they won’t be quite as crisp and light as when they’re made fresh but they’re perfectly decent and if you have a lot of people to provide them for, making pancakes in advance is really the only practical way to do it!
Feel free to chop and change what you include in the salad. This is just my favourite combination (mainly because I like the colours and the crunch) but you can literally use whatever vegetables you have in your fridge drawer that need using up. I also like to make more than I need as it is useful to have in the fridge for quick work day lunches.
I love to serve this dish for an al fresco lunch. If you want to bulk it up with some protein then you could add some crispy salt and pepper tofu cubes that would go brilliantly with the dipping sauce too! Finish off with some mango sorbet and you've got yourself a delicious full lunch party meal there!
Recipe Card 📖
Rainbow Salad Vietnamese Coconut Pancakes (Bánh Xèo)
- 225 g rice flour (I use brown rice flour for extra fibre)
- 70 g cornstarch (or arrowroot or tapioca starch)
- ½ tsp salt (I use Himalayan pink salt)
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 200 ml water
- 40 ml lime juice
- 40 ml vegetarian fish sauce
- 40 ml water
- 1 tbsp tamari or coconut aminos
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 red chilli finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves crushed
- 2 carrots peeled and julienned
- 200 g red cabbage sliced very thinly or julienned
- 80 g rocket
- 3 spring onions sliced thinly on a diagonal
- 100 g mung bean sprouts
- 40 g fresh herbs e.g. coriander, mint, thai basil
- Whizz the pancake batter ingredients in a blender or whisk together in a bowl. Leave to plump up for half an hour (or longer if you want to make ahead) while you make the sauce and the salad.
- Make the salad: julienne the vegetables for the salad and pick the leaves from the herbs then roughly chop them. Put all the salad ingredients into a bowl.
- Make the sauce: mix the ingredients together in a small jug.
- Make the pancakes: get a small frying pan very hot and wipe a smidge of oil over it. Then ladle in a little batter into the pan and swirl it around to spread the batter over the whole of the pan into a circle shape (the amount you need depends on the size of the pan but you want it to be a fairly thin mixture covering the base). It should bubble a bit and then firm up enough to be able to use a spatula to gently peel the edges away and check the underside. Once it is golden on the underside, you can flip the pancake over and cook for a minute or two on the other side.
- Place the cooked pancake on a plate lined with a layer of kitchen towel to soak up any excess oil (useful mostly for the first pancake which is often not quite as good as the rest!).
- While making each pancake, keep the cooked pancakes warm under a clean tea-towel or in a very low oven (80°C) with an up-turned plate on top to stop them from drying out.
- When ready to serve, whisk up the sauce and toss a little of it into the salad then pour the rest into a dipping bowl. Place a warm pancake on each plate, with a spoonful of salad on top and a little spoonful of sauce, then fold the pancake over, sprinkle a bit more sauce on top and garnish with some coriander leaves to make it look pretty!
- It's easiest to use a julienne slicer to prepare the vegetables but see the blog post for more knife skills tips for this salad.
- All parts can be made ahead and kept separately in sealed containers in the fridge. Then when you’re ready to eat, you make the pancakes and toss a little sauce into the salad. See the blog post for more tips on making this dish ahead.
If you like this recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free lunch recipes too:
I’d love to know how you get on with this recipe. Let me know what you think in the comments section below and please give it a star rating too! Thank you!