Making this Vietnamese coconut pancake can be tricky as you have to spread the mixture around the wok before it sets. Practice, but even if it doesn’t come out perfect the first time, it will still taste delicious.
Pancake batter (bánh xèo)
- 160 g rice flour
- ½ tsp tapioca starch
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 small pinch salt
- 1 small piece fresh turmeric, finely grated
- 325 ml water
- 1 egg
- 200 ml coconut milk
- ½ bunch spring onion, thinly sliced
- 100 g dried green mung beans (see Note)
- vegetable oil, for cooking
- ½ brown onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, diced
- 20 large (raw) king prawns, peeled and deveined, roughly chopped
- 1 fresh young coconut, juice extracted (see Note)
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp fish sauce (see Note)
- ½ tsp tapioca starch, dissolved in cold water to make a slurry
- 250 g bean shoots
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp boiling water
- 1½ tbsp fish sauce (see Note)
- 1 red birdseye chilli
- 1 lime wedge, squeezed
- 1 finger lime, fruit squeezed out (optional, see Note)
- ½ carrot, finely shredded
- 1 garlic clove
- ½ iceberg lettuce, leaves cut into 10 cm x 5 cm strips
- Vietnamese mint leaves
- mint leaves
- perilla leaves (see Note)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
For the pancake batter, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, stir well and set aside for 30 minutes.
For the filling, place mung beans in a small saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil over low heat for 30 minutes or until the beans have split and are tender. Drain and set aside.
For the remaining filling, heat the oil in large wok over high heat, add the onion and stir-fry until softened and browned. Add the garlic and cook until lightly coloured. Add the prawns and young coconut water, cover with a lid and cook for 2½ minutes or until the prawns are just opaque. Add the pepper, salt, sugar, fish sauce and cook for 1 minute. Add the tapioca slurry, toss to combine well, then transfer to a bowl. Set aside.
To make the dipping sauce, combine all of the ingredients, except the carrot, in a medium bowl. Adjust to taste; if it’s too spicy or sour, add more fish sauce. Add the carrot, stir, and let it pickle in the sauce. Set aside.
To assemble, heat some oil in a wok over high heat and carefully use paper towel to spread the oil all over the base and sides (see Note). Add 2 ladlefuls of pancake batter to the wok and immediately turn the mixture clockwise around the base and sides of the wok to make a large pancake. You need to be steady and not too quick, but you only have about 15 seconds before the batter sets.
Add one-third of each of the mung beans, prawn mixture and a handful of bean shoots to one-half of the pancake. Reduce the heat to medium, cover with a lid and cook for 2 minutes. Uncover, drizzle 2 tsp oil round the edge of the pancake, then flip over one-half to make a semi-circle and cook for 2 minutes until underside is crisp. Remove from the wok and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining pancake batter and filling.
Serve with table salad for wrapping and the dipping sauce.
• Dried mung beans are available from health food stores and Asian grocers.
• I use coconut water to give the filling an aromatic fragrance. You can substitute packaged coconut water but it won’t be as fragrant.
• Finger limes (known as lime caviar) are a native Australian ingredient, in season from March to May. They add a burst of tanginess to the dipping sauce.
• I prefer to use a Vietnamese fish sauce, called 3 Crabs (made by Viet Huong Fish Sauce Company).
• Add only a little oil in the wok (using paper towel to spread the oil), otherwise the wok will be too greasy and the pancake batter will slide and not spread to make a large enough pancake.
• Perilla leaves (also called tía tô in Vietnamese and shiso in Japanese) are available from Asian grocers.
Photography, styling and food preparation by China Squirrel.
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