Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mini Woon Chai Koh/Rice Pancakes/Banh Beo

Somehow, my pancakes did not have any indentation as mentioned by Andrea in the recipe.

These dainty and rich rice pancake is called Banh Beo in Vietnamese and are akin to Woon Chai Koh if not for the size. They are made of a simple rice flour batter and can be served sweet(ngot) and savory(man). They can be served directly from the small ceramic dish in which they are steamed or transferred to a serving platter.
I served these pancakes with the Woon Chai Koh's toppings, the recipe is here but the classic topping for savory Banh Beo is bits of briny shrimp, rich scallion oil and mildly sweet chile sauce.This recipe is from Andrea Nguyen - Into the Vietnamese Kitchen.

1 cup rice flour
3 tbsp cornstarch/tapioca starch
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp cooking oil
1 3/4 cups water

Shrimp Topping:
6 ozs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 pinches of salt
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 tbsp minced shallot
Sugar to taste
White pepper
1/2 tsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 thai chile, thinly sliced(optional)
1/4 cup scallion oil


To make scallion oil:
Have scallions ready in a small bowl so they may be quickly added to the oil.
In small saucepan, heat oil over medium heat until hot.
To test, drop in a scallion slice; it should sizzle on contact.
Add scallions and stir immediately to expose them quickly to the oil.
When scallions have collapsed and are soft, after about 30 seconds, remove from heat.
Transfer scallions and oil to a small heat-proof bowl and let cool completely.

The garnish will keep for several hours at room temperature. Or, cover and refrigerate for up to 7 days, then bring to room temperature before using.
Makes about 1/4 cup.

To make batter:
In a bowl, stir together rice flour, cornstarch and salt.
Make a well in the center, pour oil and water into the well, and whisk together to produce a thin, smooth batter.
You should have about 2 cups batter. Let batter rest for 30 minutes.

To make topping:
In small saucepan, combine shrimp and salt with water just to cover and bring to boil over medium heat. Cook about 8 minutes, or until all water has evaporated. (This intensifies flavor of shrimp.)
Transfer shrimp to small bowl and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Transfer shrimp to a mini food processor and process to a minced, fluffy texture. Or mince by hand using a knife. Return shrimp to bowl.

In small non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add shallot and saute about 1 minute, or until fragrant.
Add shrimp and stir to combine. Sprinkle in sugar, pepper and fish sauce.
Continue to cook, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes to dry shrimp, lowering heat when bits of shrimp pop.
Shrimp are done when they look crumbly and are brilliant orange.
Transfer to bowl and set aside until ready to use. (Shrimp may be prepared up 3 days in advance, cooled, covered, and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.)

To make sauce:
In a small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, water and fish sauce and stir to dissolve sugar.
Taste and make any adjustments to create a light, slightly sweet sauce.
Add chile and set aside until serving time.

To cook pancakes:
Fill bottom section of steamer halfway with water and place steamer tray on top. Bring water to rolling boil over high heat.
Nearby have ready the batter, a ladle, a small knife or metal spatula and serving plates for holding the pancakes.

Make pancakes in batches. Have ready about 8 small dishes, each about 2 1/2 inches wide and at least 1/2 inch deep.
Put dishes into steamer tray, placing them away from the edge where condensation collects. So that batter will set quickly, cover steamer and let dishes preheat for 2 minutes. Remove lid carefully. Do not let condensation drip into the dishes.
Ladle batter to a depth of 1/4 inch into each dish (about 1 tablespoon batter.)
Replace lid and steam 3 minutes, or until pancakes are shiny and firm and have a shallow indentation in center. Reduce heat to low and wait for steam to subside before lifting lid, and then lift it away from you carefully to avoid condensation dripping onto the pancakes.
Use metal tongs to transfer dishes to counter.
Let pancakes cool 2 minutes. They will firm up slightly.

To unmold:
Dip tip of knife (or spatula) in water and run it along edge of a pancake to loosen it.
Use your fingers to gently pry pancake from dish, and then place it on a serving plate.
Repeat until you have unmolded all the pancakes. The finished pancakes resemble tiny white plates.
Return steamer to a boil over high heat.
Give the dishes a quick rinse and wipe before returning them to the steamer tray for another batch.
Repeat until all batter is used. (Cooled pancakes may be covered with plastic wrap and kept at room temperature up to 8 hours.)

To serve:
Fill indentation of each pancake with a generous 1/2 teaspoon of shrimp topping and dot with a generous 1/4 teaspoon of scallion oil garnish.
Serve with the sauce.
The best strategy for eating the pancakes is to use chopsticks to scoot one onto a soup spoon and then drizzle on some sauce.


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