Friday, April 18, 2014

Vietnamese Stuffed Crepes (Bánh xèo)...

This is one of those recipes you happily eat at an authentic Vietnamese restaurant and never attempt at home because it will never turn out. It's crispy crepe alluring, filled with shrimp, pork, crunchy bean sprouts and fresh Asian herbs. It was surprising to me that the batter doesn't contain eggs but made simply with rice flour and coconut cream. I have tried several recipes in the past, searching for that perfect batter that is crispy -crunchy yet pliable enough to fold and hold all the yummy contents without breaking before digging into it. And I found it...  a bit heavier in coconut flavour than I would like but it makes an incredible crepe. Plus all the leftover Asian herbs I have in my fridge, it was time to pull out the stops with this recipe adapted from Nhut Huynh's cookbook "Little Vietnam". Recipe may seem long, but I promise if you love this dish as much as I do then it'll be worth the effort!

Vietnamese Stuffed Crepes (Bánh xèo)
Makes 4 servings
Total Time: 35 minutes

Pancake Batter:
1 1/2 cups (250 g) rice flour
1 Tbsp. potato starch (this is what gets the crepe crispy)
1 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 cups warm water
2 cups coconut cream

100 g pork belly, skin removed
1 lb. bean sprouts
1 cup garlic chives, cut into 1 1/4-inch pieces
Canola oil for cooking
2 green onions, green tops only, sliced
16 cooked shrimps, peeled, cleaned and cut down the centre into halves
Green lettuce leaves, herbs- Thai basil, mint leaves, Vietnamese coriander (rau ram), sliced cucumber
Nước mắm chấm (seasoned fish sauce): see note below

To make the Pancake Batter, mix together the first six ingredients in a bowl, then slowly add the coconut cream and stir until mixture is smooth; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or at least one hour before using. The longer the batter sits, the tastier its crepes.

NOTE: To make Nước mắm cham: i) Dissolve 1/4 cup granulated sugar in 1/3 cup boiling water; ii) Mix in 3 Tbsp. fish sauce and 3 Tbsp. white vinegar or fresh lime juice; leave to cool; iii) To season, add 2 finely chopped garlic cloves and 1 tsp. of Vietnamese chili sauce (sambal oelek) or 1 finely chopped Thai or hot red chili to taste.

Cook the pork belly in a saucepan of simmering water for 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Leave to cool and slice thinly and set aside. Blanch the bean sprouts then the garlic chives in a saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds then set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil of oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter onto the pan and swirl the pan so the batter covers the entire base. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for five minutes. Remove the lid and lift an edge of the crepe with a spatula to check if its golden and crisp; of not, continue cooking, lift and check again until ready.

Once the pancake is golden and crisp, add bean sprouts, garlic chives and green onions over half the crepe, add pieces of pork and four shrimp halves, then use a spatula to fold the other half over, enclosing the filling. Transfer onto a plate and repeat the process with the remaining batter and ingredients. Eat the crepes immediately as it will soften if sitting, taking away from the experience. Serve crepe in pieces with some lettuce, herbs and cucumber dipped with Nước mắm chấm.

Refreshing, gorgeous and delicious to no end!

For more on cooking Vietnamese home-style and restaurant favourites, choose Vietnamese as labels to search.

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