May 4, 2015

Making Vietnamese pancakes - Yummy

Is it Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City? Ho Chi Minh City has been the official name since the fall of Saigon in 1975 but both are in use. We stayed at the InterContinental Asiana Residence Saigon where we used our once-a-year free night that came as a perk for using the IGH credit card. We had lunch at their Market 39 Restaurant where they had a Vietnamese pancake station. We asked Chef Josh, the executive chef, if he would share the recipe and explain how they were made. He was happy to do so. 

Saigon is a bustling city. We visited the War Remnants Museum which can be distressing for Americans but we remember a remark from when John and I visited the Chu Chi Tunnels outside of Saigon several years ago.  Our guide, who was born in the tunnels, when asked about the “American” War (as it is called in Vietnam) and his perception of Americans, he replied, “That was then, this is now, let’s go forward.” More than half of the population was born after the war and the American War was preceded by 100 years of French colonialism and before the French 1000 years of Chinese domination. Now they govern themselves. 

Vietnamese Pancake with Prawns and Pork (Banh Xeo)

½ (one-half) cup rice flour pancake mix
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 eggs
½ (one-half) tsp salt
2 ¼ cups water
1 cup coconut milk
3 stalks spring onion, diced
2 prawns, cooked and peeled (or 4 large shrimp)
2 oz cooked pork, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper as desired for prawns and pork
2 tsp oil per pancake
1 oz bean sprouts
3 leaves of lettuce
2 oz of Vietnamese fresh herb leaves (can be spring onions, basil, cilantro, mint, and/or lemon grass
3 stalks spring onion, diced
½ (one-half) tsp salt

Pickled carrots
¼ (one-fourth) lb of carrots and white radishes (daikon), julienned
¼ (one-fourth) cup white vinegar
¼ (one-fourth) cup water
1/8 (one-eight) cup sugar
Salt to taste 

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the rice flour, turmeric powder, eggs, and salt in water. Add coconut milk and chopped spring onion. Stir well and let the batter rest for 30 minutes.
Season the cooked prawns and pork with salt and pepper. Set aside. 

Add vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet on medium high heat. Add 2 prawns and a few pork slices and fry until the prawns and pork change color. Ladle some of the batter (about 1/3 cup) and tilt the pan in a circular motion to spread the batter evenly. Turn heat down to low, cover and fry for 1 minute or until edges are firm. Uncover and add some beansprouts, then cover again and fry until the edge is crispy. Fold the crepe in half so that the 2 prawns stay on opposite quarters. Fry for another minute and transfer to a plate. Repeat until the batter is finished. (Tip: For the first fry make just the crepes and stack them on each other until the batter is finished then fry the crepes again and add bean sprouts.)

To make Pickled Carrots put carrots, radishes, vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a bowl. It can be refrigerated and saved. 
To serve pancakes use scissors to cut the crepe in half. On a large piece of lettuce place some herbs and half a crepe. Roll it up, dip in pickled carrot mix. Enjoy.