taste&create: vietnamese style

taste & create, the event where food bloggers are paired up and cook a dish from each other’s blog, is one of my favourite things to get involved with. i always try to choose something from my partner’s blog that is representative of them and their cooking heritage (which is often also their cultural heritage). i try and avoid the easy option of choosing a recipe which i can quickly make with no real thought and which won’t provide me with as much insight into someone else’s way of cooking.

this month my partner is lan from angry asian creations, who lives in baltimore. obviously i needed to choose one of her asian recipes and it was this post about cooking bánh xèo (vietnames crepes) with her family that really caught my imagination.

however, that’s where things got tricky – there was no recipe as this bánh xèo cookout involved the use of a packet mix for the batter. never mind i thought, i’ll track down a recipe and make my own version, following the angry asian suggestions for fillings and other additions. i found a recipe from viet world kitchen and started cooking…

like lan, who made my chorizo and butternut squash with penne, i needed to make substitutions as my cupboard was not filled with the things i remembered. i had no rice flour but decided to go ahead anyway with ground rice.

this was a disaster – the ground rice was too heavy and wouldn’t stay in suspension within the batter. the texture of the assembled pancake was reminiscent of polenta and really not great to eat. in an attempt to avoid wasting the various fillings, i tried another batch using chickpea flour which was okay but not anything like the bánh xèo that i wanted.

i have now bought rice flour but have run out of time to try the recipe again. i will do this as i hate being beaten, and i promise i will share how i get on. this will be a taste & create rematch!

having said all that, my foray into vietnamese cooking did prompt me to give vietnamese rice paper rolls a try and the result was pretty good. my filling was rice vermicelli, bean sprouts, marinated prawns, thai basil and fresh mint. keep reading for details of the fabulous prawn marinade and nuoc cham, the vietnamese dipping sauce.

bill granger’s marinade for rice paper rolls

1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves

1 small red chilli, seeded

60ml fish sauce

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

place all the marinade ingredients with 3 tablespoons of water in a food processor and blitz until smooth.

note: if you marinate cooked ingredients in this (i used prawns) you can use the leftover marinade in your rice paper rolls.

viet world kitchen’s nuoc cham – makes c250ml

2 thai bird chillies

1 clove garlic, sliced

3 tablespoons sugar

160ml warm water

1 ½ tablespoons lime juice

5 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons carrot, finely shredded, for garnish (optional)

cut the chillies into thin rings and set aside 1/3 for garnish. place the remaining chillies, garlic and sugar in a mortar and pound into a coarse wet paste. transfer to a small bowl and add the water, lime juice and fish sauce. stir well to dissolve and add the reserved chillies and carrot. let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

note: the sauce will keep up to 2 weeks in the fridge but is best when freshly made.