It’s been a while, I know. One time I asked my advisor about his hobby, his reply was “I used to read a lot when I was an undergrad, but now I just don’t have time anymore, all hobbies are gone.” He went on warning that I should devote some time to my hobbies now while I still can, because graduate school and later business (such as postdoctoral positions, if I can get some) will devour all of my time (and probably my soul, but he didn’t say that). Well, guess what, I don’t even have time now. On the positive side, you don’t get to sleep much, so it’s unlikely that you would have insomnia.
But sometimes you would wish you had insomnia. Now that the tests have receded and won’t come back for some time, I can (and must) stay up late for homework. So I just had a refill of energy, which at the time seemed light and even not enough, but is now weighing down on me with such concentration, unfortunately in the stomach and not in my head. It would make a great weightwatcher meal. Guess, anyone? It’s a Vietnamese pancake, i.e. banh xeo.
Recall that we’ve had several posts of banh before, it is no surprise that this one is also made of flour (rice, in this case). Here’s a quick list of ingredients my mom uses:
– prepackaged flour to make banh xeo (sold at Asian markets),
– soy milk (to dissolve the flour),
– ground pork (to be browned)
– sugar, salt
A great and experienced cook herself, she follows no recipe and provides none. The measuring cup doesn’t exist in her kitchen. She seasons the flour-soy milk mix, so that one doesn’t need to eat her banh xeo with any form of sauce. You won’t find this sauce-free business in any banh xeo shack you ever drop by, simply because traditionally people wrap their banh xeo in a huge lettuce leaf, roll it up, dip into nuoc mam pha, and somehow manage to put the busy bunch into their mouth. (A regular banh xeo is about 20cm (7 inches) in diameter.) They do it utensil-free. If soy milk makes one shudder, reason of which is a mystery to me, then one can use cow milk (whatever percent), coconut milk, or water. Likewise celery can be replaced by bean sprout or some form of long crunchy veggie (or no veggie?). Do away with the shrimp and pork if you’re a vegetarian, and go tofu. Basically, do what you like. As long as you throw the stuff into a hot skillet, pour a ladle of batter, and hear a sizzling sound (a “xeo!“, hence the name), you’ve got a pancake. A liberal, easy going pancake.
Eaten fresh, it’s crunchy. (Yes, the layer of flour must be thin, the shrimp and whatnot do not have to be covered). If the batter was just flour and water, it’s crunchy. Otherwise, it’s soft and fulfilling. I’m not a fan of crumbs, so I’m happy with microwaved banh xeo.