Happy Pancakes

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While I absolutely love it, I don’t cook Asian food very often. One, it’s usually a special trip to a specialty grocery (though not super tough in NYC). Two, my feeling is that it usually tastes way better when I get it at a restaurant. This is especially true for me with Thai food — I just can’t perfect the curry flavor you get at a Thai restaurant. But I strayed from convention the other day and made this Vietnamese dish — from the same list of Food & Wine “best dishes” I’ve been reverting to lately.

They might look a little funny, but these “Happy Pancakes” are pretty delicious. The base is thinly cut pork and shrimp, along with mushrooms and onions and bean sprouts. All of that is bound together with a rice flour mixture, and wow. It’s pretty simple but has so much happening.

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The most difficult/annoying thing about this is having to cook each pancake separately, but the result is an awesome crunchy outside on these pancakes and such great flavor.

TW’s Tips

  • The recipe calls for cooking these on high heat and I was skeptical about leaving it covered for a full five minutes on high. But it works.
  • It does get a little smoky, so use your fan/hood.
  • It was hard to distribute the batter when pouring it in the pan since it’s not very runny. You can’t just tilt the pan to make it run around the pan. I ended up ladling and spreading it around the pan and then giving it a good shake, and pushing it around if I needed to.
  • I have to say, I have a hard time with the fish sauce in the dipping sauce. I like it when I’m served it, but the smell is just too pungent for me when I have to work with it myself. I ended up using a chile dipping sauce and a little soy because I couldn’t deal with the fish sauce.
  • A little bit of burnt edges on these make them even better.
  • I had to get the mung bean sprouts at an Asian grocery store. They are different than regular bean sprouts. Careful, they don’t keep very long.
  • These were even good reheated!
  • Make sure you have a skillet with a lid that fits.
  • Store the dipping sauce in a Tupperware with a Ziploc around it so your fridge doesn’t smell like death.

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Happy Pancakes

Ingredients

Dipping Sauce

  • 2 Thai red chiles or 1 medium jalapeño, thickly sliced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, thickly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons water

Pancakes

  • 1 3/4 cups rice flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound boneless pork loin, cut crosswise into very thin slices
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 10 medium mushrooms, sliced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts

Directions

Make the dipping sauce. In a mortar, pound the chiles, garlic and sugar to a paste. Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice and water.

Make the pancakes. In a bowl, whisk together the rice flour and 2 cups of cold water. Mix in the turmeric and scallion. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil over high heat. Add 3 slices of pork, 3 shrimp and a few slices of onion and mushroom. Season with 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Stir the rice flour mixture again and ladle 1/3 cup into the pan; tilt the pan to evenly distribute the batter. Cover and cook until the sides of the pancake turn deep brown and curl up, 5 minutes. Scatter 1/4 cup of the bean sprouts over the pancake, fold it in half and slide it onto a warm platter. Keep warm in a low oven while you repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve the pancakes warm, with the dipping sauce on the side.

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