Hello hungry peoples,
Today we are going to get into one of my favourite things to eat, Vietnamese pancakes. This is some tasty street food that is fairly simple but took me aaaaages to perfect. So many failures that when I finally got it right I did jump around a bit like an idiot. Don’t worry, I think the kinks have been worked out and you shouldn’t have to suffer like I did.
Ok, lets get to the actual food. Vietnamese pancakes (commonly know as banh xeo) translates roughly to “sizzling pancake”, which hints at the cooking method. The dish is largely made up of a rice flour and coconut milk pancake filled with lots of yummy things. It is a dish full of asian flavours, with lots of beansprouts, fish sauce, palm sugar, chilli and herbs. It is also a great dish for children, with lots of healthy ingredients (and the chilli easily omitted) while introducing them to Asian flavours. For those who don’t like gluten, this recipe is gluten free, more from luck than intention. Warning: You will need a nice hot pan to make these. Non-stick will definitely make your life easier. Many of my failures were attributed to using an old non-stick pan on its last legs.
- 340g plain rice flour
- 400ml coconut milk
- 800 ml water
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 4 tbsp peanut oil
Optional: finely chopped spring onions
- 500g pork fillet steaks
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- 1 onion
- 1 whole lime
- 1/2 cup fresh herbs (coriander/mint/basil)
- 2 tbsp palm sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp white pepper
- 1 chilli
- Pinch salt
Optional: 1 cup prawns
- The pancakes are super simple. You essentially throw everything into a bowl and whisk the flour lumps out. It is a good idea to do this first before you make the filling as it helps to sit the batter for awhile so the rice flour absorbs the moisture. Nothing worse than floury pancakes. In regards to the flour make sure you get plain rice flour. Glutinous rice flour is very different. You will end up with a sticky pancake rather than a lovely crispy pancake (I know from experience). You can get large bags of both types from your local Asian grocery. The major supermarkets generally only carry small boxes. The turmeric adds colour rather than flavour but does something to your brain, making the pancake look crispier. Not strictly necessary but it does produce a better result, at least according to your addled brain worms.
- When your filling is ready you are ready to make your pancake. Put your pan on a high heat with a few tbsps of peanut oil. Once the oil is hot pour about 1/2 a cup of batter into the pan. The pan should be hot, the pancake should sizzle and bubble, thus the name. You leave the pancake cooking away until it becomes really crispy on the bottom and cooked through. You don’t flip the pancake, as it will fall apart, and then you will have to have a little cry. Carefully slide the cooked pancake onto a plate. Put some filling on top and fold the pancake over.
- To make the dressing combine the 2 tbsp palm sugar, the finely grated rind of the lime, plus the juice from one half of the lime. Heat a pan with a few tbsps of peanut oil on a medium heat. Fry the pork steaks until cooked through with some lovely brown crispy bits. The pork doesn’t have to be steaks. I have used mince and pork loin in the past but I like the balance of fat in the steaks and they caramelise well. Remove from the pan and let them rest a bit. Drain some of the oil off if it looks like a bit much.
- Fry the onions until they start to go clear. Throw the prawns into the pan with the dressing and some of the fresh herbs. Give everything a good stir until the prawns are cooked (about 5 minutes max). You don’t have to include the prawns but I do think the texture of the pork and the prawns makes a nicer, tastier filling. I find the easiest way to use prawns is to get them from the freezer. You can buy frozen raw cleaned prawns, which will defrost in about 7 minutes in a cup of water. These are usually snap frozen after they are caught and so tend to be nice and fresh, at least compared to what you can buy 3 hours from the coast. I always have a 1 kg bag in the freezer so I can use them in things like fried rice. The herb mix doesn’t really matter, just use what you have available. I like the combination of coriander and basil. Slice the pork steak finely and throw it back in with everything else and season with some white pepper. You don’t need to salt the mixture as it will be plenty salty from the fish sauce.
- Put about a 1/4 of the filling on the pancake, top with beansprouts, peanuts, a squeeze of the remaining half a lime, a handful of fresh herbs and the chilli, finely sliced. If you don’t like hot chilli, remove the seeds from it before slicing as this removes some of the heat. Fold the pancake over. Isn’t it gorgeous?? You can really taste the turmeric.
- Difficulty: Medium