When Charles Phan, the chef and owner of San Francisco's Slanted Door, samples banh xeo (a.k.a. "happy pancakes") at other Vietnamese restaurants, he often finds that they aren't crisp enough. Phan thinks the perfect crêpe should be lacy thin and crackly crisp. After years of obsessive experimentation, he recommends refrigerating the batter overnight, so the starches have time to relax, then cooking the crêpes in a nonstick pan.
Cocktail Party Recipes
1/2 cup dried mung beans
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk, stirred before using
2 cups white rice flour
1 cup cornstarch
4 cups water
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
3/4 pound boneless pork loin, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3/4 pound medium shrimp—shelled, deveined and halved lengthwise
1 medium white onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
In a small bowl, soak the dried mung beans in warm water until they are softened, about 30 minutes. Drain the beans and transfer them to a blender. Add the coconut milk and puree until very smooth. Transfer the mung-bean puree to a large bowl and whisk in the white rice flour, cornstarch, water, scallions and turmeric, and season lightly with salt. Let the crêpe batter rest for at least 20 minutes or refrigerate overnight.
Heat 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Add a few slices of pork, a couple of shrimp and a few slivers of white onion and cook for 30 seconds. Stir the crêpe batter and pour 2/3 cup of it into the pan; tilt and swirl the pan to coat the bottom with a very thin layer of batter, letting it come up the side of the pan. Scatter 1/4 cup of the bean sprouts over the crêpe and drizzle 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil around the edges. Cover the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until the bottom of the crêpe is golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Slide the crêpe onto a plate and serve with lettuce leaves, mint and the Sweet and Spicy Vietnamese Dipping Sauce. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, serving the crêpes as soon as they are cooked.
The batter can be refrigerated overnight. Let return to room temperature and stir before making the crêpes.
Beer A Vietnamese beer or one from China would be a terrific companion for this crispy dish with its sweet and spicy sauce.
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