Cambodian Lettuce Wraps

Banh Xeo  

As Sopheap Im from Battam Bong, Cambodia, taught Lindsay Sterling in South Portland, ME.

Cooking time: 1.5 hours
Serves: 6-8 people
Notes: This is finger food that guests assemble out of fixings at the table. Each person wraps fresh herbs, cucumber and pieces of stuffed dinner crepe inside a lettuce leaf, and then dips each bite in a sweet-sour-spicy sauce.

A handful of items for this dish are best found at an Asian market. The mung bean sprouts are freshest there. They should be creamy white, firm, and crisp. If you can't find good ones, just skip them. You'll also find frozen grated unsweetened coconut, fresh herbs (Thai basil, mint), coconut milk, and fish sauce.


Dipping sauce:

  • 2 small shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 red Thai chili peppers 
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • juice of 2 large limes
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts

Wrap fixings:

  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 bunch fresh basil (Thai basil preferred, available at Asian markets)
  • 1-2 heads lettuce - iceberg, butter, or other head lettuce with hand-sized leaves
  • 1-2 cucumbers

Stuffing for the crepes:

  • 8 oz. fresh or frozen grated unsweetened coconut
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¾ tsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 small red onion, sliced in half moon shapes
  • ½ pound fresh mung bean sprouts

Crepe batter:

  • 1 package Banh Xeo flour mix from the Asian market (for gluten-free version substitute the mix for 3 cups rice flour, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, and 1/4 tsp salt)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • about 1 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Make the dipping sauce. Mix all the sauce ingredients together, except the peanuts. Pulse peanuts in food processor to make crumbles (or chop with knife or roll over them with rolling pin). Reserve and add to dipping sauce right before eating. 

3. Prepare fixings for the lettuce wraps. Wash mint and basil and pick the leaves off the stems. Washed and quarter iceberg lettuce or separate leaves from head lettuce. Use a zester to make ridges in the skin of the cucumbers. Slice diagonally. Wash mung bean sprouts. 

4. Prepare stuffing for the crepes. Spread grated coconut evenly on a sheet pan. and roast in the oven until slightly dry and golden. Chop chicken into small pieces. In large saute pan or wok, heat vegetable oil. Once hot, add salt, pepper, and sugar. When those begin to turn light brown, add chicken and garlic. When chicken is well cooked, mix in roasted coconut, and onion, and cook until onions are soft. Wash the cutting board, knife, and anything else that touched the raw chicken. Keep the cooked chicken mixture and bean sprouts in separate bowls near the stove.

5. Make the crepes. Mix the crepe batter ingredients except the oil. Coconut milk consistency varies greatly by brand so add just enough water to your batter so that your batter is loose enough to make crepes in the pan. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet or flattop griddle on medium high and wipe vegetable oil over its surface. Once the pan is hot, ladle slightly less than ½ cup batter onto it and spread batter into a thin circle and cover with lid if you wish for faster cooking.

6. Stuff the crepes. When the rawness of the crepe batter disappears. put ½ cup chicken mixture in center of crepe, and ½ cup fresh bean sprouts on top of that. Let heat 1-2 minutes. When edges of crepe get dry and crispy, fold crepe in half over the filling, and place the whole thing on a sheet pan or large serving platter. Make 14 more stuffed crepes, putting pieces of tinfoil between each so they don’t stick and are easy to transport to plates.

7. Set the table. Put the dipping sauce, wrap fixin's, and stuffed crepes on on the table:

8. Wrap delicious things into lettuce leaf -- dip in sauce -- and eat! Each person at the table assembles his or her own lettuce wraps. You fill a lettuce leaf with a ripped off section of crepe and stuffing, a cucumber, and leaves of mint and basil. Then you roll them into the lettuce, dip the lettuce wrap in the sauce, and eat.