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Category: Main courses

Banh xeo (sizzling crepes)

Banh xeo (sizzling crepes)
Los Angeles Times
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes, plus 3 to 4 hours soaking time | Serves 6
Note: You can use either regular or jasmine rice to yield the perfect crispy-chewy texture. Traditionally, the shrimp is left unpeeled to contribute fragrance and crunch, so white shrimp, which have thin shells, are ideal. But if you're not into chewing on shells, peel the shrimp first. Tia to, a purple and green herb with a shiso-like flavor, is available at Vietnamese or Chinese markets, but if you can't find it, use cilantro and mint alone. Chicken breast or thigh may substitute for the pork. If straw mushrooms are unavailable, substitute one-third pound sliced white mushrooms, sauteed and drained. The batter, filling ingredients and dipping sauce may be prepared 3 to 4 hours ahead.

Dipping sauce (nuoc cham)

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 Thai bird, dragon or seeded serrano chiles, thinly sliced

Step 1Place the lime juice, rice vinegar, sugar and water in a bowl and stir to dissolve. Add the fish sauce, starting with 4 tablespoons. Taste and adjust the flavors. Aim for a balance of tart, sweet and salty. Add the garlic and chiles and place in a serving bowl. Makes about 1 1/3 cups.

Batter

  • 1 cup long-grain or jasmine rice
  • 2 tablespoons cooked rice, firmly packed
  • 1 tablespoon steamed, ground mung beans, firmly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 green onion, sliced into thin rings ( 1/4 cup)

Step 1Place the raw rice in a bowl and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Let soak for 3 to 4 hours. Drain.

Step 2Place the soaked rice in a blender with the cooked rice, mung beans, salt, turmeric, coconut milk and water. Blend until very smooth and lemony yellow, about 3 minutes.

Step 3Pour the batter through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and discard the solids. Stir in the green onion. Set aside. As the batter sits, it will thicken to a consistency like that of heavy cream. Makes 3 cups of batter.

Assembly

  • 1/2 cup canola oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 3/4 pound ground pork or boneless pork butt or shoulder, thinly sliced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can whole or broken straw mushrooms, drained, cut lengthwise if whole
  • 1/2 pound small (51 to 60 count) or medium (41 to 50 count) white shrimp, trimmed of legs and tails, deveined
  • 1 recipe batter
  • 1 recipe steamed, ground mung beans
  • 6 ounces bean sprouts (about 2 cups)
  • Leaves from 2 heads butter lettuce or 1 large head red leaf lettuce
  • 1/2 small English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced (1 1/4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup torn tia to leaves, optional
  • 1 recipe dipping sauce

Step 1For each crepe, heat 2 to 3 teaspoons oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to gently sizzle a slice of onion on contact, add one-fourth cup onion, one-fourth cup pork, one-fourth cup straw mushrooms and 4 medium or 6 small shrimp. Saute quickly, breaking up the meat and letting the ingredients sear and aromatize, about 1 minute. Visualize a line down the skillet's middle and roughly arrange the ingredients in the two halves. Anything arranged in the middle will make it hard to neatly fold the crepe.

Step 2Give the batter a good stir with the ladle. Pour about one-half cup batter into the skillet, swirling the skillet to cover the bottom; a bit going up the side forms a lovely lacy edge. The batter should dramatically sizzle (making that "xeo" noise!) and bubble. When it settles down, scatter 2 tablespoons mung beans over the crepe surface and place a one-third cup bean sprouts on one side. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover and cook until the bean sprouts have slightly wilted, about 3 minutes.

Step 3Remove the lid and drizzle about 1 teaspoon oil around the edge of the crepe. Continue cooking, uncovered, to crisp the pancake. After about 3 to 4 minutes, the edges should have pulled away from the skillet and turned golden brown. At this point, use a spatula to check underneath. From the center to the edge, the crepe should gradually go from being soft to crispy. Lower the heat if you need to cook further. When you are satisfied, use a spatula to fold one half over the other. Either lift the crepe with a spatula or slide it onto a serving dish. Repeat the cooking process. If there's leftover batter, make the poor man's crepe without the goodies.

Step 4To eat, tear a piece of lettuce roughly the size of your palm and place a piece of the crepe inside (use kitchen scissors or chopsticks to cut the crepe). Add cucumber slices and a few herb leaves. Use your fingers to bundle it up, then dunk it into the dipping sauce.

Each serving:
925 calories; 46 grams protein; 85 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams fiber; 46 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 143 mg. cholesterol; 2,329 mg. sodium.
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