Everyone in my family loves, loves loves Vietnamese food (it’s our standard “go-to” Friday night dinner out). The layered flavors and textures, the freshness and brightness make it totally irresistible. High up on my to do list to the beg some of my friends with cuisine knowledge to give me some tutoring in the kitchen, but in the meantime I keep doing my best to chase the flavors that we love by absorbing all I can from every cookbook, article and video I can find. (If you know of good resources, let me know!)
This recipe for banh xeo (Vietnamese-style crepes) from Charles Phan of SF’s always great Slanted Door restaurant, was a fun one that I wanted to share since it’s a new technique and canvas to play with. The batter is simple to put together, and cooking the crepes isn’t too hard, especially if you have some experience with French crepes or other thin pancakes, but in any case prepare to practice a bit before you get “in the zone”. I will probably never get to the level of delicate laciness of Charles Phan’s banh xeo but making them is still pretty fun and my family will happily eat the rejects.
What really brought me to this recipe in the first place were the dried yellow mung beans which form the base of the batter, a newer pantry item for me. You can find them at any Asian or Indian market and at places like Rainbow Grocery in SF and Whole Foods (I think?). You can also use dried yellow mung beans as a basis for some killer Korean Kimchee pancakes (bindaetteok), or a spiced, quick cooking Indian dhal (Simran’s mom-in-law has a fantastic recipe for Gujarati-style moong dhal with three chilies which I will nudge her to share, but in the meantime here’s one from the NY Times.)
The other draw to these crepes is that I absolutely love filled-type foods because they extend your cooking repertoire in so many ways and provide a small place for creativity and improvisation in everyday life. I love the idea of learning one kitchen trick and turning it into a hundred different meals, giving new life to unappealing leftovers and remembering to play in the kitchen. Whether empanadas, omelets, dumplings, tacos, or the humble sandwiches…. once you have the vessel you can fill it up with anything you like. In this case you cold stick with more traditional banh xeo flavors like pork, shrimp, herbs and salad-y type things, or just get crazy and mix things up. Get the kids involved and have some fun!
Charles Phan’s Crispy Vietnamese Crepes with Shrimp, Pork and Bean Sprouts (from Food & Wine)