Tag Archives: Vegetarian Recipe

Vietnamese Crêpes (Bánh Xèo) with Cinnamon

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Cinnamon flecks these creamy coloured, crispy pancakes. Bright Yellow kumquats, red chills and fresh green herbs make a colourful filling.

Making Bánh Xèo the other week at Lily’s, at the crucial moment we found that we were out of turmeric. But ingenuity came to the rescue, and we decided to use cinnamon instead. This worked surprisingly well with the coconut milk used to mix the rice flour into batter, creating a faintly sweet, delicate taste. I would still use turmeric, since the flavour and colour is really important, but try adding a bit of cinnamon and you might be pleasantly surprised… This would work well if you wanted to add a Vietnamese inspired dessert filling to the pancakes too, like sweetened mung beans.

Recipe (Makes 8 pancakes):


For the batter:
200g Bánh Xèo flour (rice flour mix that can be bought at oriental supermarkets)
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp vegetable oil
pinch of salt

For The Filling:
1 carrot, chopped into Julienne strips
3 spring onions, chopped into Julienne strips
200g beansprouts
1/2 pepper (red or green), blanched and diced or julienne sliced
1/2 bunch of coriander
1/2 bunch of mint, stems removed.
200g tofu, fried and chopped into roughly 1cm square pieces
1/2 red chilli, sliced diagonally
8 whole, large iceberg lettuce leaves

For the Nuoc Cham Sauce:
5 tablespoons of warm water
3 tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 kumquats, sliced lengthways (optional)
1/2 red chilli, sliced diagonally for garnish

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Mix the Nuoc Cham ingredients together, adding the chillis and kumquats at the end as garnish.

Combine the batter ingredients and whisk until there are no lumps left. Head a non-stick frying pan to a medium high heat and brush oil over the surface. Add one ladle of batter to the pan and tilt the pan to each side to  make sure the batter spreads evenly and thinly. When the bottom half is starting to brown slightly and become crisp, flip the pancake and cook the other side in the same way.

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Line up the filling ingredients, and on one half on the pancake surface, pile a few stalks of onion, pepper, carrot and beansprouts, a few pieces of tofu, one of two pieces of chilli and layers of herbs to taste. Add 1-2 tbsps of Nuoc Cham, wrap the whole pancake in a lettuce leaf and eat. And if you feel like it, keep dipping in Nuoc Cham as you take each bite.

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Bánh Cuốn – Vietnamese Rice Flour Pancakes With Mushroom And Tofu Filling

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This pile of about 25 pancakes lasted only about 5 minutes between 3 people, even with two other dishes on the side. The 3 mushroom filling was so light and savoury, especially when combined with the slightly salty rice pancake, it felt almost as if we hadn’t eaten them.

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to be invited round to my new friend Lily’s – Vietnamese cook and food marketer extraordinaire – where together we made a veritable feast of Vietnamese food. Using Lily’s own meat recipes as a starting point, we made Bánh Cuốn – translucent rice flour stuffed pancakes – using a non stick frying pan. Instead of shrimp or pork, however, we made a frankly delicious filling made from mushrooms, with 1 egg, a little tofu and a little bit of carrot and kohlrabi. Lily also made a separate dish tofu with fresh tomatoes (see next post) and an excellent Mango salad, which you might recall is a recipe I got from Lily in the first place. This was supplemented by copious fresh fruit like Chinese grapefruit (pomelo), custard apples, mandarins and extra mangoes. And considering it was still January and therefore epiphany in the French calendar, I brought over a homemade Galette de Rois made with puff pastry and almond frangipan, to finish our meal off! Lily is an excellent cook and an excellent person, and we plan to do a weekly Sunday Vietnamese cooking session at hers, so in effect I can tick off one of my life dreams as achieved. Expect Banh Xeo next week, and Banh Chung for Tet the week after!

Lily The Mango Fiend

Lily The Mango Fiend

Recipe (Serves 3-4 with other dishes).

200g steamed pancake flour – comes in packs of 400g at Vietnamese supermarkets, mainly consisting of rice flour and salt.
250 ml water – we found we needed more than the packet instructions detailed
2 black fungus mushrooms, soaked and then chopped into very small cubes about 2mm in diameter
2-3 small dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked and chopped into 2mm cubes
2 fresh shitake mushrooms, soaked and chopped into 2mm cubes
50g tofu, chopped into small cubes or crushed.
1 egg
1/4 carrot, chopped into 2mm cubes
1/2 kohlrabi, chopped into 2mm cubes
1/2 yellow onion, chopped into 2 mm cubes
1 clove garlic, chopped into 2 mm cubes
1 egg
3 tbps medium soy sauce
1 tbsp oil
half a tsp of sugar
half a tsp salt.

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Fry all the chopped ingredients together in the oil on a low-medium heat in a saucepan for 8-10 minutes, adding the egg to the mix about half way in. Once the vegetables are tender, the onions sweet and translucent, season the mixture to taste and set aside.

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Mix the Banh Cuon flour with the water until there are no lumps left in the batter. Brush oil in a non-stick frying pan and heat it on a low heat. Add about half a ladle of the batter to the pan, turning quickly to ensure the bottom is evenly coated. Put the lid of a saucepan over the frying pan in order to steam the top half of the pancake. Once the pancake is translucent and you can see quite clearly through it, carefully transfer it onto a plate to be rolled.

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Split the pancake in half to form two pancakes. Along each edge spread half a tablespoon of the mixture thinly. Roll the straight edge of each half over towards the curved edge once, rolling up the mixture in the process. Transfer to a serving plate and repeat with the other pancakes until all the pancake batter has been used.

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Vietnamese Omelette

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Seemingly humble, nay, even strange (to Europeans) ingredients like squiggly black cat’s ear mushrooms render a delicious, mildly salty taste and lovely crunchy texture to this staple Vietnamese dish. 

This is my adaptation of my Tata Hélène’s recipe for Vietnamese omeletes, aka hairy omelettes as I used to call them, due to the crunchy ribbons of noodles, onions and mushrooms that thread through the eggs. The savoury, salty flavour that hits you from the mixture of fried eggs, onions, garlic, vermicelli noodles, dried cat’s ear mushrooms, pepper and thin soy sauce is like no other – you’ll not get over it, it is overwhelming and addictive. When we used to visit my aunt in Marseille, us kids would love these so much that on the last day of our visit, Hélène would make several big ones (with shredded pork) and stack them up on a plate for us to take away on the journey home. The last time she made them for us as children I ate so many in the car on the way home that I contracted salmonella from the eggs… I’m sure there a several lessons to be learnt from that story. But this summer she made some again for me, after many years of absence, and I can vouch for their enduring deliciousness – I was certainly no young fool in my childhood love for these.

Recipe: (serves 2 with side dish(es) and rice. Double the ingredients to make one big, fat omelette to serve up sliced for 4 or more).

1/4 onion, sliced lengthways quite finely
1 – 2 cloves garlic depending on taste, finely diced
1/2 cup bean vermicelli, soaked and chopped into roughly inch long pieces
1/2 cup pre-soaked, sliced wood ear mushrooms (aka: black fungi/cat’s ear mushrooms/oreilles de chats. You can buy these pre-sliced in longdan supermarkets, or use about 2 whole mushrooms)
1 tbsp thin soy sace
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Fry the onion and garlic on a low heat for 4 minutes in the oil, until they become translucent and begin to soften. Use a non-stick frying pan.

Add the soaked and shredded vermicelli and mushrooms and fry on a medium heat for another 3 minutes. Frying all these separately before adding the eggs ensures that they impart maximum flavour.

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Beat 4 eggs together in a bowl (use chopsticks to save on washing up), until yolks and whites are fully combined, and add soy sauce and pepper. Add egg mix to the frying pan and mix quickly for a few seconds to ensure even distribution of vegetables. Let it fry for 2-3 minutes on one side, until the bottom half is firmly cooked and curling off the edges of the pan.

Take frying pan off the heat and put it under the grill for another 2-3 minutes, until the omelette is golden and all the egg is thoroughly cooked.

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Slicing A Mango Into Julienne Strips

The chopping part of this process went on for much longer than this video shows. You need to hack the mango a lot before you can slice it vertically to get the julienne pieces. The mango must be very hard and underripe, or it will be impossible to slice in this way.

I picked up this trick not from an auntie or friend, no: in Tranh Anh Hung’s film, the Scent of Green Papaya, the serving girl protagonist’s job is to slice up a green papaya with a machete for the family she works for. The Papayas grow in the family courtyard, and it’s a task we see her performing regularly as a young girl and an adult. When Lily from Longdan supermarket gave me this recipe, she told me she thought mango was better than papaya, being both cheaper and sweeter!

NB: Feats like these are for show-offs and cheap-skates. When in doubt, use a proper Julienne Shredder or a grater. Don’t chop off your fingers.

Vietnamese Mango Salad

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I’ve never seen a wooden table so yellow it matched the flesh of a mango. Even the mango’s yellowness seems to have been enhanced. As well as crucial flavour, bright green mint and coriander give the yellow salad some much needed colour contrast.

These were the last food pictures I took before retrieving my better camera. Expect new food photos to be truer to original colours! This lovely salad recipe was given to me by Lili at Longdan Supermarket on the Hackney Road in Shoreditch, who is involved in designing the new restaurant menus there. Vietnamese salads at their best are a real treat – sweet, crunchy and fresh. The trick is to make sure you’ve balanced the dipping sauce just right (I’ve had several acidic, mouth puckering accidents where I over-used lime or vinegar), and to be generous with the fresh herbs and toppings.

Recipe (serves 4 as side salad):

1 under ripe green mango, sliced into Julienne strips (See video above for how to do this with a knife). The mango must be very hard or it will not keep its texture in the salad. Luckily during winter in the UK, underripe mangos are easier to find than ripe ones!
1 small carrot, sliced into Julienne strips (or grated)
Half a small red onion cut into very thin rings and soaked in cold water for 1 minute
Half a small kohlrabi cut into thin julienne strips
10 gr chopped coriander
5 gr chopped mint
1 tbsp chopped roasted peanuts
1 tbsp crispy fried shallots

Mix together the sliced vegetables, sprinkle with the mint, coriander, chopped peanuts and crispy fried shallots.

Make a dipping sauce (the same recipe as for the pho) with garlic, lime, chilli, water, sugar and thin soy sauce. Sprinkle this over the salad and serve.

Pho with Tofu and Mushrooms

This pho looks good in 2 different lights – the tofu doesn’t only reflect the flavour of its co-habitants in the bowl, it seems to reflect different colours of its surroundings…

This vegetarian pho recipe is an adaptation of a recipe I received at a Pho cookery class in Acton. Sadly at this otherwise excellent class, mushrooms were my only replacement for chicken. If you feel that even as a vegetarian you nonetheless do need some protein, add some tofu (raw or marinated) as I have done above. Also, seitan mock meats made from flour can be delicious for as a replacement.

Recipe (serves 4):

2 litres of vegetable stock
400 grams tofu
1 onion sliced
1 carrot sliced
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
6 cm stick of cinnamon
24 coriander seeds
4 star anise
20g fermented black beans
200g green cabbage or choux chinois
300g rice noodles
2 tbs thin soy sauce
1 bunch coriander, stems chopped and separated off

Poach the tofu in the vegetable stock for about 5 minutes. Whilst you are doing this, toast the star anise, cinnamon and coriander seeds dryly in a frying pan or wok until they start to spit and become fragrant. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Toast the ginger and garlic in the frying pan til charred.

Add 1 tbps of oil to the frying pan and brown the onions. Remove tofu from the stock and set aside. Add onions, carrots and coriander stems to the stock and simmer for 30 minutes. In the meantime, fry the tofu in abut 2 tablespoons of oil until it has gone golden brown and cripsy on the edges.

Add the soy sauce and adjust the seasoning to the stock. Strain the stock and discard solids. Finely slice the cabbage and chop the coriander more roughly.

Place the noodles, tofu, cabbage, shitake mushrooms (with their stock to taste), salted beans in a bowl, pour over the boiling stock and sprinkle on the chopped coriander. Add dipping sauce – nuoc cham – to taste.

And here is a nuoc cham recipe from the same cookery school for good measure –

3 Thai bird’s eye chillies
2 sliced garlic cloves
3 tbsps sugar,
170 ml warm water (or less)
1 I/2 tbsps fresh lime
5 Tbs thin soy sauce
2 Tbs finely shredded carrot for garnish

Slice chillies at an angle and keep on third aside for the garnish.

Pound the remaining chillies to a paste in a pestle and mortar with garlic and sugar.

Transfer to a small bowl and add water, lime juice and soy sauce and stir well.

Set aside for 10 minutes and serve with the remaining chillies and carrot as a garnish

Fried Tofu with Carrot and Lemongrass Stir Fry



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The chopped carrots, ginger, lemongrass, chilli and beansprouts await the hot wok. The soy, chilli and lime dip sits on the table, waiting for a bit of tofu, which is meanwhile crisping and turning golden in the pan.

Today’s late lunch consisted of simply done, shallow fried tofu cubes with a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce, and a little stir fry of carrots and beansprouts done with Vietnamese style flavouring – lemongrass, chilli, lime, ginger and peanuts. It was a very quick one to do (depending on how much patience you have to chop up the carrot into tiny batons), but delicious with fresh rice.

Resisting the temptation to put the tofu in with the vegetables to stir fry is important. Most Vietnamese dishes work with one main component, which is then complemented by several other different dishes at the table. This means that the flavours of each dish are very concentrated. This is ever more important when using tofu, which is tends to absorb rather than impart flavour. And from my cooking trials and errors, I’ve learnt you should always treat vegetables with a bit of respect – don’t just mix everything you’ve got left in the fridge. That normally ends up gross. Would you chop up and fry 5 different types of meat together?

Also, I apologise for my poor quality photos since the Banh Chung recipe was posted up – I’ll be retrieving a better camera soon!

Recipe (Serves 2):

For the Tofu

Chop tofu into 2 cm cubes. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and fry the tofu on a medium heat, turning so that all sides go golden brown and slightly crisp.

For the Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon water
half a clove of garlic, minced
Half a red chilli, minced
Half a teaspoon of sugar
Half a tablespoon of chopped peanuts
Mix all indredients together, adding peanuts at the end as a garnish.

For The Stir Fry

1 large carrot
200 grams beansprouts
1 lemongrass stalk, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
Half a red thai bird chilli, minced
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon oil
Several sprigs of mint or coriander.

Heat the oil on a medium heat and then add the onion and fry for a minute before adding the garlic, ginger, chilli, and lemongrass. Fry for another minute then turn to heat up high and add the carrots. Also add the soy sauce, water and lime juice at this point.

Stir fry for 2 minutes, then add the bean sprouts for another two minutes. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and serve with a mint or coriander garnish.