Banh xeo, as Vietnamese call these crepes, is one of my favourite dishes to eat in Vietnam. The large, sizzling hot, turmeric-scented crepe filled with pork, shrimp and bean sprouts is a hands-on dish: with chopsticks, you tear off a section of the filled crepe, wrap it in a lettuce leaf and dunk it in the dipping sauce. It's a delicious mix of temperatures, textures and flavours: crunchy, cooling lettuce, tender crepe, the hot filling, with basil, mint and the salty-sweet pungent fish sauce.
In Vietnam, I've watched as vendors spread raw bean sprouts plus the partially cooked shrimp and pork on top of the crepe in the wok, slap on the lid, then let everything cook together briefly, before folding the crepe in half and sliding it onto the serving dish. Because I want to eat at the same time as those I am cooking for, my technique is a little different: I make the crepes first, cook all the other ingredients separately, then fill and fold the crepes at the table. I also make the crepes much smaller, so everyone can have their own.
Most of the recipes I've seen use rice flour as the only starch in the crepe batter, but I found the cooked crepes a little too delicate to fold easily, so I add a small amount of plain (all-purpose) flour.
Prepare the filling ingredients so they're ready to stir-fry when the crepes are cooked. Slice the pork against the grain into thin strips about 2.5cm (1in) long, put into a bowl, sprinkle with ¾tsp of salt and mix well. Put the shrimp in a bowl, sprinkle with a ½tsp of salt and mix well. Rinse the bean sprouts and leave them in a colander to drain thoroughly. Slice the spring onions into 2cm (⅞in) lengths.
Make the dipping sauce. Mix the fish sauce with the lime juice, vinegar and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Mince the garlic and cut the chillies into thin rounds, squeezing out and discarding the seeds as you go. Add the garlic and chillies to the bowl of dipping sauce, then taste it and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Dilute the dipping sauce with about 30ml (2tbsp) of cold water, or more, if it tastes too strong. Ladle into individual dipping bowls.
Put the lettuce, herbs and pickled vegetables on a platter.
Mix the rice flour with the plain flour, turmeric and salt. Use a whisk to stir in the coconut milk and the cold water. The batter should be smooth and slightly thicker than French crepe batter; if necessary, stir in a little more cold water.
Heat a non-stick skillet (about 20cm/8in in diameter) over a medium flame. Very lightly coat the pan with oil, rubbing it in with a paper towel. When the skillet is very hot, stir the batter well, then ladle it into the pan. Immediately swirl the pan so the batter is in a thin, even layer. Cook over a medium flame until the edges of the crepe start coming away from the pan and the surface is matte and firm to the touch. Leave for a few more seconds to lightly brown the bottom of the crepe, then use a rubber spatula to loosen the edges from the pan. Shake the skillet - the crepe should slide around easily. Slide the crepe onto a plate and make more crepes the same way. Each time, lightly oil the pan, and stir the batter well before ladling it into the skillet. Stack the crepes as they are cooked.
When all the crepes are ready, cook the filling. Heat a wok and, when it's very hot, add about 15ml (1tbsp) of cooking oil. Add the pork, sprinkle it with pepper to taste, then stir-fry until fully cooked. Put the pork into a large, clean bowl. Place the wok back over the flame and add about 15ml (1tbsp) of cooking oil. Add the shrimp then stir-fry until they curl and turn pink. Put the shrimp in the bowl with the pork. Heat the wok again, pour in about 15ml (1tbsp) of cooking oil and, when it's very hot, add the bean sprouts, spring onions and a sprinkling of salt. Stir-fry very quickly, just to heat the bean sprouts slightly, but don't overcook them or they'll wilt. Put the bean sprouts and spring onions in the bowl with the pork and shrimp and thoroughly mix all the ingredients together. Taste the mixture and add a little more salt and pepper, if necessary.
Each diner should lay a crepe on their plate, add some filling, then fold the crepe in half. Wrap some of the crepe and filling in a lettuce leaf and add whatever herbs and pickled vegetables they want. Dip the lettuce wrap in the sauce before eating.