For all the complaining I do about Anthony Bourdain mocking me with all his recommendations that don’t seem to exist, I did manage to find one restaurant he tried on “No Reservations.” I should, however, note that the reason I ate banh xeo was because my friend in Tokyo recommended it, and the reason I chose this restaurant is that it was the only one I found that served it — until I found the restaurant at which I ate just before I left for the airport.
I had come across this outdoor banh xeo restaurant just down a narrow street, Ding Cong Trang, near Tan Dinh Market during one of my first days in Ho Chi Minh City. However, I postponed eating at the restaurant because I thought I’d have more opportunities to eat banh xeo, probably at a lower price. When I found the restaurant mentioned on the Travel Channel website, I decided to try it.
Banh xeo is a sort of giant wrapped pancake. It’s a thin, crispy layer of rice flour wrapped around shrimp, bean sprouts, and some other vegetables. It’s served with a plate of morning glory and basil that is used to wrap the banh xeo. The difficult part is cutting this dish with chopsticks to make it manageable to eat. Once it’s cut up into a mess (it really is a messy meal), it can be put into the morning glory leaf and dipped in a fish sauce. This is one of those few meals that you really have to use your hands to eat — there’s just no way around it.
Banh Xeo 46A is only open for lunch, which meant that the few times I walked past for dinner, I had to find alternatives. I finally made my way there for lunch — it was only a 10-minute walk from my apartment, but I had to arrive early to ensure I got a seat. By the time I left, the restaurant had a large crowd as I had seen most days I walked nearby to the market. For an outdoor restaurant in Vietnam, Banh Xeo 46A is exceptionally clean — I was impressed by the metallic shine of the open kitchen.
While banh xeo was not my favorite meal in Vietnam, it was definitely one of the most interesting I tried. A lot websites from a few years ago say that an order of banh xeo here is VND 35,000 (a little more than $1.50), but I remember it being at least twice that (or maybe I ordered something extra, I’m really not sure).