Vietnamese cuisine is a real melting pot of flavours. It's heavily influenced by the French who occupied the country during the 19th Century so you'll see ingredients like French baguettes and pate commonly being eaten. Mix those up with more traditional South East Asian ingredients like noodles, chilli and coconut, add in wonderfully fragrant herbs and you have something remarkable. Vietnamese food is about fine-tuning your tasting skills to balance out sweet, sour, salty, umami, bitter and hot flavours. It's also about combining perfect textures, crunchy vegetables and silky meat or fish to create the perfect harmony of taste.
This recipe hopefully will achieve plenty of this, it's a classic street food favourite and as well as making the different elements, it's important to know how to eat this dish. Essentially, you tear a piece of the crepe away and place it on a large lettuce leaf, add in plenty of fresh herbs, roll everything up and dip it into the Nuoc Cham. The result is heavenly, it's no wonder this is a street food classic.
Nuoc Cham is a Vietnamese dipping sauce that is used in loads of dishes, it's a mix of palm sugar, water, vinegar, lime juice, chilli and garlic. It's a thin, liquid that's packed full of flavour and is a great seasoning for noodle salads, summer rolls and rice dishes as well.
There are quite a few ingredients here, but many of them are general store-cupboard items, but it's well worth making sure you have fresh mint and beansprouts as they make a big difference.
The actual crepe recipe is gluten free, diary free and vegan, you can easily interchange the filling ingredients with other items such as chicken, beef, tofu, mushrooms, red pepper, lots of items would also work well.
For the Crêpe filling
4 Spring Onions, finely sliced
2 Shallots, finely sliced
200g Pork Belly, thinly sliced
225g Prawns, raw is best but cooked will still be OK
Salt & Pepper
A splash of Fussels Rapeseed Oil
For the Salad
Large lettuce leave like Romaine or Cos
Fresh Basil (Thai Sweet Basil would be best)
For the dipping sauce
3tbsps Palm Sugar, chopped into small pieces
4tbsps Hot Water
2tbsps Rice Vinegar
2tbsps Fish Sauce
2tbsps Fresh Lime Juice
2 Garlic Cloves
1-2 Red Chillies, finely diced
1. Start by making the dipping sauce. Chop the palm sugar into small pieces and dissolve in the hot water. Leave for a few minutes.
2. Add in the rest of the ingredients and set aside until ready.
3. To make the crepe batter, mix the rice flour with the turmeric, salt and sugar. Whisk in the coconut milk, followed by the cold water.
4. Season the pork belly with salt and pepper and in a hot pan fry the thin strips. Keep cooking until they are nicely browned and slightly crispy.
5. Turn the heat down slightly and add in the sliced shallot. Cook for a minute before adding in the prawns and the spring onion. Once the prawns are just cooked through, turn the heat off and set aside.
6. Just before you cook the crepes, prepare the leaves and herbs into a big bowl so that everyone can help themselves at the table.
7. To cook the crepes, heat your pan to a medium to high heat and add in a good splash of oil. Ladle in the batter, tipping the pan round so that it covers the whole base. Keep cooking on a high heat for a minute or so, the crepe should end up being crispy, so you need the heat. Once the top starts to cook through, scatter over some of the cooked pork and prawn mix, plus a handful of the beansprouts. Keep cooking for another minute so that you have a nice crispy base. Using a spatula, gently release the edges of the crepe away from the pan before sliding it out onto your serving plate and flipping one half over the other.
8. To eat, tear away a piece of the crepe and filling and place into a lettuce leaf. Add in your choice of herbs and then roll the lettuce up, dip into the Nuoc Cham and eat. The Vietnamese like to get stuck into their eating, they have an expression "an choi", which means "to eat playfully", so have a napkin at hand and be prepared to get a little messy. Enjoy.
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I keep reaching for our delicious Pickled Lemon Paste. It's intense lemon flavour provides a great lift to so many dishes whether it's a stew, sauce, dressing or marinade. This little salad is really quick and simple to prepare. The liquorice flavour of fennel is perfectly suited to carrying strong flavours...
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