Lemongrass' Khoa Nguyen Demonstates an Easy, Greaseless Vietnamese Seafood Crepe

As I teased in last week's Pho from Home post, this week we're visiting Lemongrass' kitchen with owner Khoa Nguyen where he'll teach us how to make their popular banh xeo.

Banh xeo, or Vietnamese crepe, is known to be delicious but notoriously greasy. While Lemongrass' version is still quite decadent, the cooks figured out a simple (and obvious) way to cut the grease factor. When I dined with my mother at the restaurant a couple of weeks back, she couldn't help but marvel at how there was no oil whatsoever on the plate. Someone who's a fan of the traditional banh xeo might miss the crispiness the oil provides, but I didn't mind it so much. I liked the lightness of the dish and found Lemongrass' version to be adequately crisp.

Follow the jump for instructions on how to create a greaseless banh xeo, Lemongrass style.

Khoa starts with a rice flour mix that can be found in any Asian supermarket. His preferred brand is Kim Thu Tap. The package comes with two compartments of powder. One is the rice flour, the smaller package is turmeric, the spice that gives banh xeo its signature color and flavor.

Khoa first sets aside the turmeric and pours the contents of the rice flour into a large bowl. He then adds two cans of coconut milk. He recommends using the Savoy brand. While continuing to whip the rice flour and coconut milk mixture together, he slowly pours in three

cups of warm to hot water. After making sure all the contents are blended, he finally mixes in the turmeric. The mixture, which is by now quite runny, is placed into the refrigerator and left to set for two hours.

Meanwhile, Khoa works on the crepe's filling. Pork and shrimp are the usual proteins in a traditional banh xeo, but Lemongrass serves up a specialty shrimp and scallop version to go with the more traditional offering. Since a banh xeo is better when it isn't overstuffed, he takes out about four pieces of shrimp and scallop, which is enough, he says, for two

crepes. He quickly blanches the proteins and sets the seafood aside, making sure they retain their color and aren't overcooked. He then chops up onions and scallions. He also slices up the shrimp and scallops in order to make sure that the filling of the banh xeo isn't too bulky. After a dab of butter into a wok (sautee pan is fine), he tosses the onions, scallions and seafood into the pan and sautees everything quickly, seasoning with only a pinch of salt, sugar and pepper. He takes it off the heat and sets it aside to go back to the rice flour mixture, which has now hardened.

He pulls out another mixture (that he is pre-prepared) from the fridge. The batter is a consistency of a spackle, something Khoa says is necessary to achieve a crispy crepe. What comes next is what makes Lemongrass' banh xeo unique from the pack. The restaurant cooks its banh xeo in a non-stick pan, with no spray or oil, atop a hot grill. A stove top should be fine, however. The dish is traditionally shallow fried in inches of oil. Khao, however, wanted to serve a lighter dish that wouldn't scare off diners.

After heating up the pan for a bit, he spoons a half of cup of batter into a medium sized sautee pan and spreads it out evenly into a circle.

Note: Since we were only making two large sized crepes, there will be plenty of batter left over. The batter can be covered up and left in the fridge for a couple of days for future banh xeo-making. A bag of the rice flour typically serves 10 people. Once the batter is spread out, he places the pan on medium heat, watching it diligently, making sure to poke out any air bubbles with a skewer. As soon as the crepe begins to set, he spreads the onion, scallions, and seafood along with some bean sprouts on one half of the crepe. When the

edges of the crepe start curling up, he checks the bottom to make sure it is nicely browned. Khoa then folds over one side of the crepe atop the other (similar to making an omelet) and slides the banh xeo off onto a dish.

Lemongrass serves their banh xeo with whole leaves of red leaf lettuce, cilantro, and fish sauce. The crepes are eaten by breaking off pieces of the banh xeo, wrapping them up in the lettuce, and dipping into fish sauce. The recipe for Lemongrass' fish sauce is simple. Two parts fish sauce are warmed up with one part sugar so that the sugar can dissolve. Once it cools, add one part lime juice.

Winter is the perfect time to impress your friends with this easy, yet deceivingly impressive dish.

Things you'll need: A large bowl and whisk A sautee pan A large spoon or ladel A non-stick medium sized frying pan A spatula A skewer/toothpick

For two crepes (serves 2-4 people): 1 package Khu Thu Tap Banh Xeo Flour 2 cans Savoy brand coconut milk 3 cups hot water Chicken meat, shrimp, scallops, pork or whatever you'd like to use as your protein 1/2 onion 2 scallions Bean sprouts to garnish Red leaf lettuce Cilantro to garnish

For fish sauce: 1 cup of fish sauce ½ cup of sugar ½ cup of lemon juice

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Kristy Yang
Contact: Kristy Yang