Friday, June 15, 2012

Crepe Romance

 His thin frame, pubescent facial hair patches, and slight overbite approach the table, as he delivers my plate. With monotone speech and no eye contact, he informs me.
"This is a saigon crepe. It's stuffed with vegetables and thin strips of pork and shrimp. We recommend that you wrap pieces of the crepe in the lettuce here and add the sauce. Enjoy. Thank you."
And he quickly walks away.

I come twice a week to this Vietnamese cafe here in FL. I order the same plate, every time..... and every time, I get the same robotic breakdown from the bust boy. But alas, I don't really care much as I have FINALLY found a perfectly made Banh Xeo. Which holds as a beautiful reminder to the sweet country of Vietnam.

I was welcomed to Vietnam by boat in November of 2009. Taking my time from the rivers of Can Tho in the south, and up to the Islands of Halong Bay. Captivated by the life, culture and food of this country, it quickly became one of my favorite places on the planet.

The crispy crepe- Banh Xeo, was one of my main targets in culinary stalking. I searched each city for every woman or man, nestled in the corner of a cafe making fresh crepes and stuffing them with thin strips of pork and shrimp, and fresh bean sprouts. Seated snuggly on my tiny plastic stool, curbside in bustling cities as Hanoi and Ho Chi Ming. I found a strange, euphoric, serenity in taking to a plate of this gastronomic wonder, in a proper roadside Banh Xeo.

I must learn how to make this.

I challenged myself plenty (alongside Kim, we tested various recipes for Banh Xeo.) Making the rice flour from scratch, to letting the batter rest for 24 hours or even 48 hours. There is a package of Banh Xeo mix (Ingredients: rice flour, mung bean flour, corn starch, tumeric. Just add coconut milk.) It is naturally gluten-free and vegan, and super quick to whip up and fry. Served alongside a mountain of herbs and greens with a side of nuoc cham sauce on the side.
I make it on the boat for my boss at least once a month as a sweet ode to Vietnam.

This recipe is great, because the addition of cornstarch aids in the ultimate crispy-factor. The style is really close to what you get from a package mix of Banh Xeo. Which I have found in almost all Vietnamese markets, from California to Florida, and Vienna to Madrid.
Another recipe here is more like what I have attempted by scratch. Either recipe or mix, you'll find making a crispy crepe simple and approachable.... and overwhelmingly addictive.

I'm back on the boat cooking in the galley, and leaving Florida (FINALLY!!) for Columbia next week.
But I will soon be back to visit my awkward bust boy, while he gives me the lengthy breakdown on my favorite Vietnamese wonder. I'll listen with care while I await the "...enjoy. Thank you." while diving head first in to the crispy bliss of Banh Xeo.

Enjoy. Thank you.