Whenever we crave banh xeo (Vietnamese Sizzling Crepes) or banh khot (Vietnamese mini shrimp cakes) we make a stop at Van Restaurant in Little Saigon. In business for over 20 years, Van Restaurant is another one of those Little Saigon institutions where their reputation is built on a few dishes, like Quan Bun Ban Mai and their canh bun, here it’s the crispy fried rice flour dishes of banh xeo and banh khot. Sure, they have other rice and soup items on the menu that you might be tempted to try– but you’ll probably be in the very small minority because if you’re a regular or have prior knowledge of this dish, chances are you came into this restaurant specifically for some crispy and savory banh xeo or banh khot.
Made from rice flower, coconut milk, and turmeric, Van specializes in making southern Vietnam style banh xeo which is huge, compared with central and northern counterparts. Generously stuffed with pork, shrimp, beansprouts, and onions these come to you crisp, hot off the pan. The other regions have their slight variations as well, including stuffing with mung bean paste.
The distinction between an okay and great banh xeo is the thinness and crispiness of the crepes–which is actually not an easy task. Van’s version is very thin and crispy, although on one occasional it was a bit oily and soggy probably because they do not bring it to us right away.
Banh khot is made from similar ingredients and instead of pan fried in a large crepe, these are poured in little modes in cast iron pans, fried perfectly crisp and topped with shrimp.
Both are eaten similary with a large accoutrement of fresh lettuce and herbs (mint, mustard leaves, basil, perilla). We both like to make lettuce wraps, however, you can just combine these ingrediants in a bowl and top with nuoc mam cham. It’s an explosion of flavors if your mouth from the fragrant crispy crepe to the hot savory beansprouts, shrimp and pork, balanced with the fresh herbs and lettuce…
The decor probably hasn’t changed a bit since they opened this store in the 80’s with old, sun washed photos, and it seems for the time being, their prices are also seem to be stuck in the 80’s as many items still under $5! Even the beer is $1.50! But we’re not complaining… The menus are well worn and even tattered, however, the regulars don’t need the menu because they’re here just to eat their excellent rendition of banh xeo and banh khot…
14122 Brookhurst St,
Garden Grove, CA 92843