Love for Delicious Banh Khoai Pancakes

When I was a little boy, I used to follow my grandma to go and release the fishing nets used for catching little shrimps in the canal which runs from the Ma River into the fields. In January of the lunar calendar, it is time for the farmers to plow and rake their fields and transplant rice seedlings, because the canal is full with water. If the fishing nets stay from early morning till noon time we could get a few kilos of fresh shrimps.

Ingredients for Banh khoai include water dropwort, cabbage, little shrimp and ground rice liquid.


How to make Banh khoai: Heat oil in a hot cast iron pan, fry sliced vegetables,
pour rice liquid over the mixture and put shrimp on it.

Use a spatula to get the entire pancake out of the pan.

Banh khoai, a delicious pancake from central Thanh Hoa province.
With these ordinary ingredients which are mixed together with rice flour and fresh shrimps, local people from central Thanh Hoa province can make delicious pancakes, locally called Banh khoai, which impress both local and foreign visitors.

On the way home, my grandma picked some water dropwort growing in Yen Dinh district (in central Thanh Hoa province), a kind of vegetable which is short and has finger-sized corn. She also picked a cabbage from our garden, sliced it thin and cleaned it before mixing it with the dropwort.

However, to make a delicious Banh khoai, it requires good skills and the correct processing steps, including preparing the vegetables, liquid rice flour, fried shrimp and ground pork or beef. In addition, preparing a good dipping sauce for the cakes is also a must that makes the food more delicious.

For the local people, like my grandma, to make Banh khoai is very simple. Clean and slice the vegetables, then fry them in a cast iron pan. When they are well done, pour the liquid rice flour and fried shrimp over the mixture. The pancake is then served with the sauce, a mixture of fish sauce, pepper and chili.

I will never forget the way my grandma ground rice into liquid flour to make the cake. She soaked rice in water overnight before grinding it with a stone flour mill. I still remember the special sound coming from the grinder that my grandma turned while running around and around for an hour before the white rice liquid came out. Watching her preparing the rice liquid while running with the grinder, I compared it to my grandma’s life, which is closely attached to the rice field, her garden and the local canal to earn her living and raise my father, my brothers and sisters and me.

“Banh khoai is food for poor people, as it can be made from rice flour, little shrimp and vegetables. Wherever you go, you should remember that it is a part of you,” my grandma advised me.

The memory of my grandma in the old kitchen frying the Banh khoai pancakes on the cast iron pan while I ate them with lots of excitement is a special one.

My grandma passed away, and I am now a grown man living and working far from my home, and visiting it just a few times a year, including Tet (lunar New Year holidays). However, on those occasions, I still enjoy the local scenery of the rice fields and my grandma’s old house with the stone flour-mill sitting in a corner of the yard. Memories of my childhood with my grandma and the delicious Banh khoai always come back to my mind. I went to her grave, placed some incense sticks on it and prayed for her with my best regards.

Banh Khoai is popular and sold in many towns in Vietnam. People can enjoy Banh khoai at the Restaurant 76/165 Xuan Thuy street, Cau Giay district in Hanoi.

By Tran Thanh Giang