One of the reasons I have always gravitated towards the food of the Orient is because, by its very nature, it is naturally healthy, yet full of flavour. This Vietnamese pancake is a perfect example, made with rice flour and coconut milk I was thrilled when I first discovered the recipe didn’t use the usual milk and refined white flour. For the ‘nuoc cham’, it is important to use a good quality fish sauce. Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam) works well here as it is not too salty. Look out for the word ‘nhi’ on the label, which means the liquid has come from the first extraction from the fish, a bit like a good extra virgin olive oil.
For the nuoc cham sauce, combine together the garlic, chili, rice wine vinegar and lime juice and leave for 5 minutes. Then add in the rest of the ingredients, mix well and leave to one side.
Sieve both flours and turmeric into a large bowl. Stir in the coconut palm sugar, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the coconut milk and water, ensuring there are no lumps.
Place a large 22-24cm non stick pan over a high heat. Add in a tsp of vegetable oil, once smoking hot ladle in a thin layer of the batter, swirling around to evenly cover the base of the pan. Turn the heat down to medium-high and fry for 3 minutes, then add on some bean shoots and cooked prawns, cook for a further 2 minutes. The bottom should be crisp and golden. Fold over the pancake and slide it off the pan onto a plate. It is best when just cooked, so I like to serve them immediately one at a time, sharing them with my family and friends. Then start cooking another one when you are nearly finished the first. To eat, create a parcel with a lettuce leaf, add in a good chunk of the pancake, bean sprouts, prawns and some mint, wrap it up tightly and dunk in the sauce with each bite.
Yield: 6 - 8 Servings
Nuoc cham dipping sauce
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
2 birds eye chilis, very finely chopped
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tbsp fish sauce (nuoc mam) –see note
2 tbsp maple syrup
110 ml water
250-300g cooked prawns
200g bean sprouts
Bunch of mint
Spring onions, sliced into 3 inch lengths
220g rice flour
1 tbsp corn flour
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp coconut palm sugar
Pinch of sea salt and pepper
1 400ml tin coconut milk
300ml cold water