Mar 5, 2014

vietnamese crêpes, a fresh start

oh arctic vortex, i am so tired of you. i am longing for the lush colors, flavors and textures of another time and place. i am often trying to cure whatever ails my family with vital foods. so when the cold and greys get at you, i recommend brightening your day and your week with say a classic dish from vietnam. warm. friendly. delicious brightness. this is one of my favorite foods in the whole wide world. fresh textures. lively flavors, crispy, salty sour sweet. it took me quite a long time to find and then massage a recipe i liked. but after a few years of research, i finally found what i was looking for. it didn't come easy. but it was worth it. so here you go. pour yourself into a new project, get re-energized, fight back against the chill. a whole new season is coming on.

vietnamese crêpes
6 servings

crepe base
1/2 cup dried mung beans
2 cups warm water

1. assemble ingredients. place dried mung beans in a small glass bowl, add water to cover. allow to soften for 1 hour. make the dipping sauce and set out the garnishes while  you wait.

crepe batter
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups rice flour
1 cup rice or potato starch
1 heaping teaspoon tumeric
3 thinly sliced scallions
4 cups water

1 boneless pork chop cut into thin slices
3/4 lb shelled and deveined shrimp, halved
4 cups bean sprouts

2. lightly drain the softened mung beans. place them in a blender with the coconut milk. process until nice and smooth. pour into a medium sized bowl and add the flour, starch, tumeric, and water. whisk until combined. add in the scallions and whisk a bit more. allow the batter to rest while you are cooking the fillings.

3. in a nonstick pan, the same one you are going to use to make the crepes, add a small smattering of olive or rice bran oil and quickly sauté the pork slices over very high heat. make sure the pan is nice and hot. brown the slices on each side and set aside on a platter, they should be seared but lightly cooked, they will cook a little more in the crepe. next add the shrimp halves, again sauté quickly on high heat, sear, but lightly undercook. remove and set aside. now the bean sprouts. sauté quickly for 2 minutes and remove.

4. okay now it is show time. add another drizzle of olive or rice bran oil to the nonstick pan, (incidentally i use an 8 inch pan but a 6 or 9 inch could work in a pinch). stir up the batter and pour about 3/4 up of batter into the pan in a thin layer, swirling it around to cover the bottom of the pan with a few deft circles or your wrist (you can do this and it might even be fun). okay make sure the heat is on medium high or even high depending on your stove. let the batter sizzle in the pan and cover it for a minute, to cook through now add a small handful of bean sprouts and the a few slices of the cooked pork and shrimp, cover and cook another minute, and do not over stuff the crepe or it will be difficult to eat. check to make sure the crepe is nice and crisp. let it cook another minute if you are unsure, you do not want it to be gloppy or soggy, but light and crisp. okay when its ready insert your spatula under half the crepe, gingerly and swiftly fold it over on top of itself. now slide it onto a plate. one by one the crepes will be ready. i have even trained my kids to cook their own so the cook (me) gets to eat.

5. serve immediately. if you are super neat, cut the folded crepe into triangles and wrap in the lettuce leaf garnish and dip in a small dish of sauce. if you are more like me, cut into it haphazardly with fork and wrap in lettuce and dip, spilling some, but not too much. dive in. mmmm. yum.

heirloom, butter, red and green leaf lettuces, shredded carrot, cilantro leaves and nuoc cham dipping sauce.

nuoc cham (basic dipping sauce)

3 Tablespoons lime juice
3 Tablespoons brown sugar or palm sugar
1/2 cup water
3 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon minced shallot
(optional minced cilantro stems, grated carrot, minced thai red chili)

whisk together and let rest for 30 minutes or more to combine the flavors. Taste for flavor balance as some limes are sweeter than others and some fish sauce is saltier than others. If it is too strong dilute with an even mixture of water and rice vinegar until desired lightness is achieved.