Food in Vietnam, Part 1: Happy Pancakes and Tiny Pancakes

Hi everyone,

During my trip to my grandparents' house in Mũi Né, I got a chance to eat a lot of good food that I haven't eaten in a decade! Needless to say, I was delighted. Mũi Né is a small city in Central Vietnam. When I grew up, it used to be wild and natural. Now, Mũi Né is a resort town that resembles Orlando or Miami, FL. I was quite shocked to see the abundant amount of tourists roaming the streets even in the middle of the night. After all, I came from Florida and this little town looks exactly like a tourist spot somewhere in the Sunshine State!

Anyways, enough about me being shocked. Let's go on about the food. Vietnam, as far as I can tell, has really good food. I'm serious. I'm getting fat already and it's only 2 weeks! Food is everywhere and food is delicious. I've been eating and eating until I break and then I would eat some more. Since Mũi Né is a city by the sea, fresh seafood is abundant. The two days I was there, I thoroughly enjoyed eating fresh fish like it was no tomorrow.

There are 3 things you need to eat in Mũi Né, besides fresh seafood. I ate 3 of them but didn't get a chance to take pictures of the last one. Boo! Anyways, the two that I am showing you today are quite interesting. They are pancakes made from clay molds. The first one is bánh xèo or happy pancake and the second one is bánh căn, which I call tiny pancakes. They are made of ground rice flour and guess what? Both types of pancakes are awesomely delicious!

Bánh xèo (happy pancakes)
Wanna see more pictures of delicious food? Jump with me, ok?

The reason why this pancake is called "bánh xèo" is the cheerful crackling noise it makes once the the flour mix hits the pan. Unlike the Southern version of this pancake, the Central version is quite small (about 4-6 inches in diameter) and does not have turmeric to make the flour yellow. It is white and sometimes, does not contain any fillings. The version my mom and I ordered contained pork, shrimp, and beansprouts. It costs $3,000 Vietnam dong (about 15 cents) a piece. A couple of years ago, it used to be even cheaper. My mom and I ordered 8 pancakes and it was quite a breakfast.

(L-R): jar full of freshly pulverized red pepper in vinegar, a bowl of condiments (lemon and whole Vietnamese chili peppers, very spicy!), a bowl of sweet and sour fish sauce with some red chili pepper mixed in it
My mom added herbs and lettuce to her bowl, then the bánh xèo arrived and we added them to our bowls and ate.
The second item in my must-eat list was bánh căn. Like bánh xèo, these guys are pancakes. However, they are really tiny: about the size of your dollar coin pancakes. The diameter is around 2-3 inches and like bánh xèo, these are also made from clay molds. The difference between the two, beside the sizes, are: (1) bánh căn does not require any oil while bánh xèo does, (2) it almost does not have any fillings, although some vendors will crack an egg and distribute it among the 10 tiny pancakes.

A box-full of bánh căn. I believe there were about 10 or 12 pairs inside. My brother, the prince of snack food, ate 5 pairs.
Like bánh xèo, we eat these tiny pancakes with sweet and sour fish sauce. However, we do not eat them with herbs or lettuce. Just pancakes and fish sauce and soon enough, you'll be in heaven. My brother is a fan of these pancakes and he insisted we should eat them before we left.

The wonderful thing about Vietnamese food is street food. Bánh xèo and bánh căn are available from the street vendors. Taking the street away from the food and these types of food would not taste the same. The anticipation of the food while watching it made right in front of you is what makes street food so delightful. I took a short video clip while waiting for the bánh xèo lady to cook my order. It's an interesting process and I hope you'll enjoy it.

Did you hear the crackling sound? This lady is making her food very fast. She moved the mold half-way during the process to prevent the pancake from burning in one side.

That's all for now. More food pictures to come in the near future :)

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