|Vietnamese pancakes. Photo by Steve Shanahan|
Cooking Asian food requires some preparation and energy to hunt and gather ingredients, but provides its own reward with simple, light and fresh flavours.
We don’t need to travel very far in Canberra to access fabulous local food markets and a plethora of Asian grocers, offering the opportunity and inspiration to recreate Asian street style delicacies. My challenge each visit is to only buy as much as I need.
When old friends from the North Coast of NSW arrive for a surprise stay we visit the Capital Region Farmer’s Market to shop for an Asian feast.
So to counter my habit of buying more than I need, I make a shopping list and take my friend along for back-up. Arriving at the market I turn my trolley upside down to find the shopping list, which I realise is languishing on my kitchen benchtop. So we shop from memory and collect a little extra just in case. I do find shopping from memory does tend to keep me a little more focused.
After escaping with only a couple of extra bags of produce, we return to prepare the feast of pork and chicken pancakes in bean sauce and sticky rice dumplings in ginger syrup. This is accompanied with a glass or two of alcoholic inspiration.
Over dinner, our visitors enthused about the quality and choice of the produce available at the market, again reminding me of Canberra’s strong relationship to it’s burgeoning and multicultural food culture.
This recipe requires some preparation time, so start early and give yourself a few hours leeway or have someone else in the kitchen to share out the tasks.
Crispy Vietnamese pancakes with bean sauce
400g rice flour
300ml coconut milk
2 green shallots, chopped finely
vegetable oil for frying
200g pork mince
100g chicken mince
1 small onion, chopped
3 green shallots, chopped
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp palm sugar or coconut sugar
1 chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 lime, juiced and zest
½ cup of fresh herbs, a combination of basil, coriander and mint, finely chopped
1 tsp ground white pepper
200g fresh bean sprouts
50g vegetable oil
100g salted soy beans, found at Asian grocers
150ml sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
¼ cup of fresh ginger, finely chopped
¼ cup of green shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
60g roasted peanuts
2 tbsp water
To make the pancake batter, place rice flour into a medium sized mixing bowl, add coconut milk and water and mix until smooth. Add shallots and mix together and leave to rest for half an hour.
To prepare the bean sauce, heat the oil in a medium sized frypan over medium heat. Then add the ginger and shallots and cook for one minute. Add the tamarind paste, bean paste, sweet chilli sauce, peanuts and sesame seeds and cook for five minutes, stirring to combine and prevent sticking and burning. Add the water and continue to stir for another two minutes. Remove to a bowl to cool slightly, then blend on high speed for one minute in a food processor or stick blender until smooth. Remove the blended sauce to a bowl and set aside.
For the filling, in a medium sized frypan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pork and chicken mince and cook until golden and crumbly. Add the onion and shallots and cook for another five minutes. Then add the fish sauce, sugar, chilli, lime zest, peanuts, juice and white pepper. Continue to cook and mix for another five minutes. Taste for seasoning. Transfer the mince mixture to a medium bowl and stir through half of the chopped herbs, cover and set aside.
For the pancakes, preheat the oven to 80C. In a medium sized frypan or wok, heat three tablespoons of vegetable oil over a high heat and add a third of a cup of the batter, rotating the pan to evenly coat the the base of the pan. When bubbles start to form cook for a further two minutes until crispy around the edges. Remove from pan with a large egg lifter and place on an oven tray. Transfer to the oven to keep warm. Repeat until all the batter is used.
To serve, place the pancakes on individual plates, top with a couple of spoons of warmed meat filling, add a spoon of chopped fresh herbs and top with a good dollop of bean sauce, some fresh bean sprouts and toasted sesame seeds.
Due to the crispiness of these pancakes they do not roll well, so eating with a fork and knife works best.