Friday 22 March 2013

Vietnamese pancakes

I first tried these about ten years ago in the Vietnamese village of Hoi An, about halfway up the country, while travelling with my childhood friend Sinead. We accidentally spent a week in the village. Every second shop is a tailors, and we kept ordering more clothes every time we went to pick up our previous orders, postponing our onward travel. We had to buy extra suitcases, we got so much stuff made (it was very cheap to get clothes made). I have fond memories of having winter coats made for us, and trying these on in the 30+° heat!

The week in Hoi An was one of the highlights of the trip. It was just wall-to-wall craic, and we met so many brilliant people, both travellers like ourselves and locals.

We had these pancakes, which are a local speciality, in a WWF café, listening to Buena Vista Social Club (yes, Cuban music in Vietnam…). They were so good we went back a second night. I have never seen these in a western Vietnamese restaurant. I think the Vietnamese know hey are too good to export ;-) 

Vietnamese pancakes

I found this recipe in Rick Stein’s ‘far eastern odyssey’. He says this does four people, but I get four pancakes from this and two of us eat them.

For the pancakes
100g rice flour (I’ve used normal flour with no problem)
2 eggs (these are the one ingredient which cannot be substituted or omitted)
175 ml coconut milk (I’ve used full fat and low fat coconut milk with no problem. I’ve also used normal cows milk, and milk mixed with water, no problems)
½ teaspoon of ground turmeric
½ teaspoon of castor sugar (I have left this out on occasion)
½ teaspoon of salt

Whisk all the ingredients together until smooth, and leave this to the side for half an hour.  The batter is an alarming yellow colour – as you will see from the picture. When you’re ready to cook them, put a little oil in a pancake pan and add a little batter – enough to cover the pan. Cook on one side for about two minutes, flip, and cook on the second side for about one-to-one-and-a-half minutes, until they are a little browned.

For the filling
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 teaspoon of palm sugar (castor sugar is fine, or leave this out)
200g of pork fillet (if you’re not a fan of pork, use chicken)
150g of prawns

Mix the fish sauce with the sugar. Slice the pork into slivers, about the size of lardons. Put them into a bowl, and the prawns into another, and divide the fish sauce mixture between the two.  Leave them to marinade with the batter.  When you’re ready to cook them, stir fry the pork for one minute before adding the prawns and cooking the whole lot for another minute, until they are cooked through. Season well with a good dose of pepper.

You will also need some salad for the pancakes. I love some bean sprouts, a mix of herbs like basil, coriander, mint and a little flat-leaf parsley, and some normal salad leaves.

Make a dipping sauce for the pancakes by mixing two tablespoons of lime juice, two tablespoons of fish sauce, two tablespoons of water, one teaspoon of sugar, one tablespoon of finely grated fresh ginger, a finely chopped red chilli and a crushed clove of garlic. 

When you're ready to eat, fill your pancake with the stir-fried pork and prawns and the herby salady bean sprouts. Dip liberally into the sauce. 

Is there any dish that transports you back to an exotic location or reminds you of holidays? 

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