Crispy Vietnamese Crepes (Banh Xeo)
A thin and crispy Vietnamese crepe piled to the brim with sautéed onions and mushrooms, crunchy bean sprouts and fragrant herbs. Served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. Vegan & Gluten Free. <jump to recipe>
The holidays have come and gone real quick. My heart is still warm from all the cozy times spent with friends and family. And, as sad as I am to see 2015 go, I'm also excited for what 2016 will bring! If 2015 was any indication, this year is going to be a good one. But, despite all this "in with the new" excitement, I still find that the first week back from holidays tends to feel a bit…blah. In an effort to bump up our excitement level at home, I cranked out a fat stack of crispy Vietnamese crepes that we assembled tableside for dinner. If the giggles, crepe building contests, and empty plates were a sign, this recipe was a definite hit!
I first came across Vietnamese crepes two or three years ago. I loved the idea of a thin, crackly shell that could be stuffed with endless toppings. Things like crunchy beansprouts, fragrant thai basil, and other fresh herbs. At first I'd assumed the vibrant yellow hue of the crepe came from eggs in the batter, but then I learned it was actually turmeric! No eggs in sight – or dairy – which makes this dish vegan friendly. Oh yes!
The batter is so easy to throw together. Measure your ingredients, dump them in a bowl and whisk away. I find I get the best results when I let the mixed batter sit for a bit. It works perfectly, because the batter can rest while you prep the sauce and the toppings. Or, if you're really organized, you could even make the batter the night before. You kitchen goddess, you. When it comes to the cooking, this recipe includes a measurement for the batter itself (provided you're using a 10"pan). I find that measuring the batter really helps to make sure I've got the perfect amount every time! And while I don't often use non-stick pans, for this dish, I find that a non-stick skillet is the best way to get a perfectly crispy crepe every time.
Vietnamese crepes can be served in a variety of ways. Most often I've seen them folded in half and pre-assembled in the pan. But I've also had it served as a big "family style" dish with a HUGE crepe in the middle and toppings stacked all around. Everyone would tear off some of the shell and then hand-assemble their own mini crepe. Basically, there's a bunch of ways you could do this. For this recipe, I went for the simplest option – i.e. the one that let me get out of the kitchen and get to the eating ASAP. So, rather than cranking out stuffed crepes one at a time, I instead opted to let everyone assemble their crepes at the table. There's something fun about building your own food before you eat it.
The toppings really make this dish, so make sure you don't skimp on them! At this time of year, I wanted to have a warm, vegan-friendly component tucked into the crepe. This is where the sautéed onions and shiitake mushrooms come in. Then, go to town with the fresh toppings. I suspect the herb that might be less familiar is the thai basil. It's delicious in this dish, so I highly recommend you try to hunt it down. Most of my local grocers carry it either in bundles, or in those clear herb packages in the produce aisle. Asian grocers would also be a sure bet. You know that you're looking at thai basil when you see a purple stem. Thai basil has a distinctly different taste than sweet basil (sweet basil being the more commonly used variety in North America), so if you can't track it down, just leave it out. There's a ton of other herbs and fresh toppings stuffed in there – so you'll still be very content without it. You can feel good knowing that the sweet and spicy sauce has your back. It's the perfect finishing touch!
CRISPY VIETNAMESE CREPES (BANH XEO)
MAKES 10 CREPES, SERVES 4-5 (VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE)
1 2/3 cups brown rice flour (8.5oz / 240g)
2 cups water
1/2 cup canned coconut milk*
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 scallions, finely sliced
Neutral oil, for cooking
Sauteed shiitake mushrooms:
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. coconut, grapeseed)**
1 white onion
3/4 lb / 340 g shitake mushrooms, sliced (stems removed)
1 tablespoon liquid aminos (or soy sauce, tamari)***
Vegetables: Beansprouts, Lettuce, Carrot
Fresh Herbs: Thai Basil, Cilantro, Mint
Sweet & Spicy Dipping Sauce (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 225 °F.
In a large bowl, combine brown rice flour, water, coconut milk, ground tumeric, salt and scallions. Whisk thoroughly until the batter is smooth. Set aside to rest, while you prepare the other ingredients.
Heat a saute pan over medium heat (for best results use a non-stick pan). While it warms, peel and cut onion into thin strips. Add coconut oil to pan, and once melted, add the onion. Cook the onions for 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Add the shiitake mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes until soft. Add liquid aminos and stir to mix it into the mushrooms. Remove from heat and transfer mixture into an ovenproof container. Cover with foil and place in the oven to keep warm.
Now, it's time to cook the crepes. Give the saute pan a quick wipe, and turn up the heat to medium-high. Once it's hot, add enough oil to thinly cover the base of the pan. Tilt the pan to distribute the oil evenly. Add a scant 1/3 cup of crepe batter to the pan. Tilt and swirl the pan to ensure the bottom gets coated with a thin layer of batter. Cook until the edges are crispy and the bottom is browned (~3 minutes). Flip and cook for another minute. Place the cooked crepe on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat to cook the remaining crepes.
Assemble by placing toppings over half the crepe. Ladle some of the Sweet & Spicy Sauce on top, and then fold crepe in half before eating.
-*Make sure you stir the coconut milk thoroughly before measuring. It tends to separate in the can.
-**If using coconut oil for savory dishes, you may wish to opt for deodorized coconut oil. It doesn't impart the same coconut scent.
-***Liquid aminos has a great umami flavor, which makes it a good vegetarian substitute for fish sauce (which would often be used in a sauce like this). Brands such as Bragg can often be found in the natural foods aisle of your local grocer.
-The batter can be refrigerated in advance. Or, if you suspect you'll have leftovers, you could cook up half the batter for dinner and refrigerate the remaining batter to cook up the following day. For best results, bring the batter to room temperature before cooking.
SWEET & SPICY DIPPING SAUCE
(VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE)
1 tablespoon liquid aminos (or soy sauce, tamari)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 - 1/2 of a thai red chili, finely diced
2 – 2 1/2 tablespoons water
In a small bowl, combine ingredients for the dipping sauce. Whisk to mix thoroughly. Adjust chili and water to taste. Serve with Crispy Vietnamese Crepes.