It all began with a pancake… A Vietnamese pancake to be precise: Bánh xèo also known as “Vietnamese happy pancake” or “sizzling pancake.”
It’s a large fritter made from rice flour and turmeric powder. It’s then stuffed with a combination of traditional fillings and then fried. You break off a piece of it, wrap it in a large lettuce leaf together with mint or Thai basil, and then dip it into a vinegar dipping sauce.
At a dinner in Houston’s Asiatown last night, my wife Tracie and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary with a Vietnamese pancake that was stuffed with sautéed pork, fried whole shrimp, and fresh mung bean sprouts. We were at our favorite BYOB (bring-your-own-bottle) Vietnamese and pan-Asian restaurant in the heart of the city’s bustling Asian district. (Some readers may not remember that Houston, where we have lived for the last five years, became home to thousands of Vietnamese in the 1980s when they immigrated from their home country. Houston has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the United States and it also has a large Asian population in general thanks to the presence of the international oil and gas industry, the medical industry, the space industry, and high tech, not to mention a really vibrant restaurant community.)
As much as we love pairing Moscato d’Asti with Tex Mex (I wrote about that a few weeks ago), our favorite creative/non-traditional pairing for the wines is Vietnamese. Not all Asian food — with its wide breadth of flavors and ingredients — works as well, in our humble opinion. The tangy flavors of last night’s dinner, which included a bunch of different shared dishes, just seemed to sing in harmony with the fresh fruit notes of the wine. And its aromatic character and freshness played beautifully against the aroma of the mint we used to stuff our rolls with.
I’ve been having a lot of fun with this series of posts on creative and non-traditional pairings for the wines. Stay tuned: More great flavors and pairings to come.