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Banh xeo (sizzling crepes)

Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields Serves 6
Banh xeo (sizzling crepes)
(Los Angeles Times)

Dipping sauce (nuoc cham)

1

Place 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

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

2

Place 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.

3

Pour 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

For 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.

2

Give 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.

3

Remove 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.

4

To 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.

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.

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