Vietnamese Pancakes (Banh Xeo)

I stumbled upon these Vietnamese pancakes, called Banh Xeo which literally means 'sizzling cake', when going through my Yotam Ottolenghi vegetarian book  which I bought on a whim about a year ago. Some of his recipes are a little too cheesy (as in too much cheese in the recipe!) for my liking but these pancakes resonated with me with all of the fresh flavours in the sauce and herbs plus a tonne of crunchy vegies (I added a lot more than the original and authentic recipes).

After I had made them I spoke to my friend Y-Linh and she said that her Vietnamese mum makes them all the time... if only I had known ahead of time I could have picked up some pancake cooking tips! I must say, after eating them I am absolutely besotted with them. With all the raw vegies they are like a yummier warm version of Vietnamese rice paper rolls.

The version I have posted is vegetarian and tofu free but you can easily add some cooked pork belly, prawns, tofu or chicken and they would be even more delicious. They are supposed to be served as soon as they are cooked but I wanted to eat them as a sit down meal so I set them aside under some foil to keep them warm, resulting in not so crispy pancakes but they were still really delicious.

What you need to serve four lucky people:

200g organic brown rice flour (or white rice flour if you can't find brown)
400ml tin of organic coconut milk (or a smaller tin of cream + the remainder as water)
3-4 cup of filtered water
1 tbsp grapeseed or coconut oil
2 eggs

40 ml lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp seasame oil
1 tbsp brown sugar (optional - I used organic molasses sugar)
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) or fish sauce
2tsp freshly grated ginger
1 frsh red chilli, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp salt

Any mixture of fresh and cooked thinly sliced vegetables would be good. I used:
Handful thinly sliced mushrooms
Bok choy stems and leaves thinly sliced
1 large green chilli, sliced (optional)
2 carrots thinly sliced
1 red capsicum thinly sliced
2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed
2 spring onions thinly sliced
Bunch of coriander roughly chopped
Bunch of mint roughly chopped

Tips from my friend Y-Linh: add some chopped spring onions to pancake mixture and cook some sliced brown onions in the pan before adding the pancake mixture.

How to cook them:

Prepare all of the vegetables (and meat if you are using meat) and set aside.

If you are adding cooked vegetables saute them briefly in some grapeseed oil in a pan over medium heat and set aside once cooked. I sauteed the bok choy and mushrooms and covered to keep warm while I made the dressing and pancakes.

Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce together and shake (hint: I like to use old jars as salad shakers). Add the rice flour, eggs, turmeric, coconut milk and 2 cups of water to a bowl and stir well. If the mixture isn't runny and thin add some more water until it is. You might need to keep doing this as you are cooking the pancakes as it will thicken upon standing.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and add some oil. Swirl the oil around the pan so that it is completely covered. Using a ladle spoon the pancake batter over the frying pan so that it is completely coated in a thin layer. Don't be scared of the sizzling sound! Once the pancake is crispy on the bottom you can either attempt to flip it to cook the other side (which I did) or you can put a lid on for a short amount of time to cook the top side. Remove the cooked pancake and set aside under some foil to keep warm.

Once all of the pancakes are cooked serve them with the vegetables and sauce and allow people to fill them with their own mixture. The sauce is great added on top of the vegetables inside the pancake and then over the top of the pancake.

Variations - add meat, wrap the pancake in a crispy lettuce leaf or rice paper.

Make it naughty - add some poached pork belly
On a side note, I am off to the UK and Greece tomorrow for a few weeks but hopefully I will have time to make something to post while I am there- maybe some vegie haggis?