On first appearances, banh xeo is a rigid, forearm-length yellow crepe folded into a crescent. Owner of Thanh Ha 2 Ha Nguyen’s version barely fits on the oval plate it’s dished onto.

Banh xeo translates to “sizzling pancake” because it’s made by pouring savoury batter into a hot wok and spreading it thin to the edges. Rice is soaked overnight, then milled by hand in a stone grinder. The resulting liquid and dried rice pulp, along with a pinch of ground turmeric for colour, makes the pancake. As it sets, while cooking, slices of pork, cooked prawns, shallots, bean sprouts and mung beans are tossed in so they stick to the pancake, before it’s folded and served with lettuces and herbs.

But that’s not the dish Ha’s best known for. The sign out the front says “Banh Cuon Thanh Ha 2”, although its name is simply Thanh Ha 2.

Banh cuon, from Northern Vietnam, is a steamed rice paper roll filled with minced pork and wood-ear mushrooms, served with fried shallots and a nuoc cham dressing of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chili. Ha rolls the noodle-like fermented rice sheets by hand, a technique she learnt during her four years in the Galang Refugee Camp in Indonesia.

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Updated: October 17th, 2019

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