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 almost crunchy. If you can't find good ones, just skip them. You'll also find frozen grated unsweetened coconut, Fresh Thai basil and mint, coconut milk, and fish sauce.

Ingredients

Dipping sauce:

  • 1 small shallot, finely sliced
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 red Thai chili pepper or other hot fresh chili pepper
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • juice of one large lime
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 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
  • 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:

  • 3 cups rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • small piece of pork fat or 1-3 tsp vegetable oil

Instructions

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Make the dipping sauce. Mix all the sauce ingredients together, except the peanuts. Grind peanuts in coffee grinder or chop with knife; add 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. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet on medium high (one that has a lid) and wipe pork fat or vegetable oil over its surface. Ladle ½ cup batter into pan and tilt pan to spread batter into a crepe shape, and cover with lid.

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.