The most difficult part of the recipe was probably finding rice flour. I first searched Talin Market, but all I could find there was glutinous rice flour – great for making Japanese mochi, but not the thing for Vietnamese crepes. Then it occurred to me to check the Co-op, where I found a bag of Bob’s Red Mill white rice flour. That’s what I used, and it worked great.
Since these crepes are at their best hot from the skillet, we ate at the kitchen table. As I finished one crepe, I’d put it on the table, then start another one. I sat down and shared the finished crepe with Arne while the new one browned. With the lettuce-wrapping and sauce-dipping, this made for a delightfully convivial meal – though not one I would try to cook for more than four people. If you had a tabletop burner it would be even more fun.
I liked these crepes even better than the ones at Da Lat. They were crisp and fresh and flavorful, and a lot less greasy. The traditional method of making Vietnamese crepes involves lots of oil, but this one uses just about a teaspoon per crepe. The texture was phenomenal – crisp on the outside with a moist inside. Arne liked them moister and I preferred them crispier, so don’t worry too much about getting them all exactly the same.
Though bean sprouts, shrimp, and pork are traditional fillings for these crepes, you could replace those with anything that strikes your fancy – so, since there are no eggs in the batter, they could easily be vegan. Experiment! Serve the finished crepes with lettuce leaves, herbs (basil, mint, or cilantro would all be good), and nuoc cham, which you can stir together in minutes while the crepe batter rests.
Vietnamese Rice-Flour Crepes with Shrimp and Bean Sprouts
Makes: 8 to 10, serving 3 to 4 Time: 40 minutes (20 hands-on), plus frying-and-eating time
3/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus another few tablespoons for frying
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 pound raw shrimp, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1.5 cups bean sprouts, rinsed
Lettuce leaves and herbs for serving
Nuoc cham dipping sauce (recipe follows)
Whisk together the flour, turmeric, salt, coconut milk, water, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until smooth. Stir in the scallions and let the batter rest 30 minutes.
Heat two teaspoons of oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet. Saute the shrimp about 4 minutes, stirring, until their raw translucence has just turned to white. Stir in the bean sprouts, then spoon the mixture into a bowl and set aside. Mix together the nuoc cham.
When the batter has rested, check its thickness – you want it about like cream. If it’s too thick, add more water.
Wipe out the skillet and heat a teaspoon of oil until quite hot. Carefully pour 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet, swirling the pan while you do to evenly distribute the batter. It won’t go all the way to the edges, which is fine. It probably won’t be perfectly round, and that is fine too. If it seems like it’s too thick, stir a little more water into the batter so the next one will spread more.
Let the crepe cook for about three or four minutes, until the edges have crisped to lacy brownness and released from the pan and the center is well set. Spoon about a tenth of the shrimp mixture onto the crepe and let cook another minute, then fold over and remove to a plate. Serve hot.
Makes about a cup
2.5 tablespoons brown sugar (or regular sugar)
1.5 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fish sauce (for a vegan version, replace with 1/4 teaspoon salt)
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon Chinese chile-garlic sauce (I use Lee Kum Kee brand)
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.