Let us begin at the beginning (and when I come to the end, I’ll stop). Last week I was having a trawl for interesting recipes to help get me out of my ‘meh’ state of mind about food. I remembered this recipe for Thai Basil Pork that I’d made before and found both easy to make and really tasty. It’s fair to say that this recipe makes for strongly flavoured meat, particularly because of the amount of fish sauce; that’s not intended as a warning so much as what you might call friendly advice. I really like this recipe, but I can see how someone else might want to dial down the saltiness a bit. I also remembered this recipe for Savoury Thai Waffles that I’d been really interested in making, but never got round to. I decided to make both of these, with some small adjustments…
For the Thai Basil Pork, I swapped turkey for pork, and used a mix of basil and mint as I couldn’t get Thai basil. There’s a picture of it on the right – it’s really just as simple as it looks, and a great meal if you’re in a hurry. For the waffles, well… I messed around a bit with the recipe, used it as a jumping off point you might say. I don’t have an exact recipe, it was kind of a preliminary experiment to allow me to make my own recipes in future. I know that I used some cocktail prawns instead of the dried shrimp, because that’s what I had in the house, and added thinly sliced spring onion and mostly de-seeded birds eye chilis. I also reduced the amount of sugar and used low-fat coconut milk to reduce the calorie content. Finally, I cooked them in my Wok Party, which I think is an item that Tefal released in parts of Europe but not across the board; I was lucky enough to get one as a gift, and it’s great for making little pancakes, omelettes or for doing small amounts of stir fry. Looking at the picture in the link, I see that you can cook directly on the surface of the item and don’t have to use the mini woks. Next time I should read the instructions more carefully. Anyway, I made these Thai pancakes in the mini woks so they were much thicker than the wafer thin crepe-style pancakes the recipe suggests. I told you it was a jumping off point. By which I mean like a diving board, rather than like the top of a cliff over some pointy rocks.
I had the turkey and pancakes with the suggested dipping sauce (which I found a bit heavy on the fish sauce) and some good old Lingham’s ginger, garlic and chili sauce, which is a good accompaniment to so many things. I didn’t mean my dinner to look like a monkey face, it just turned out that way.
Now, fast forward to today. Except that it is today now, so maybe play is a better word. Or pause, or stop. And possibly by the time you read this, today will have been weeks or months ago, so you’ll have to rewind. Hm. I’m not sure where to go with this, except to try and gloss over it…
I’ve had such a notion for sesame prawn toast this last week, but didn’t want to order a takeaway because a) I am determined to look at my holiday photos and not see a big round face and b) I don’t like ordering takeaway food for just me, I think the people in the shop will JUDGE ME. It’s kind of been an idle craving for most of the week, but on my way home tonight (which is a Friday, for those of you from the future – welcome, by the way. Do you have hoverboards yet?) the craving and the pancake experiment collided in my brain and created the Sesame Prawn Pancake, which deserves the capital letters because it’s such an awesome invention. CERN has nothing on me when it comes to collisions, and mine don’t cost a gazillion dollars either.
My local Chinese takeaway makes this crazy sesame prawn toast, which I was horrified by at first, then loved for a few pieces, then felt like if I ate any more I was going to be extremely sorry. It’s kind of like really egg-saturated french toast stuffed with mashed prawns and topped with sesame seeds, and then deep fried. Certainly not traditional, and not the kind of thing you can eat much of. Some of you will undoubtedly be thinking you couldn’t eat any of it, and are possibly holding perfumed handkerchiefs to your noses to shield yourself from the very idea. In my experience, despite what you might think, this particular kind of sesame prawn toast is oddly satisfying in small doses. I wanted to make something like this, but less nausea inducing and more delicious, for obvious reasons.
The original recipe for Thai pancakes included rice flour in the ingredients. In my version I used wheat free flour, which is a mix of different kinds (yes, that’s another alteration to the recipe) and which made for a strange texture – kind of springy and dense. This time I wanted to use the real stuff, and I had another inspiration (it must be something in the air) – why couldn’t I make my own rice flour? You know, out of rice? A quick Google showed that there was no reason at all that I couldn’t, and in fact I was a dope for not thinking of it sooner. I was reassured to read this post from Gluten Free Girl, in which she says it took her a while to figure it out, too… Gluten Free Girl is ace, by the way, whether or not you follow a gluten free diet you should check her out.
From this revelation, the next step was wondering if brown rice would turn into flour; because brown rice has quite a nutty flavour I thought it might lend itself better to the sesame prawn pancakes. I duly fired some in the blender, with the grinding attachment on, and let it spin for a while until it looked like it might be as fine as it was going to get. The flour was still very coarse and gritty so I passed it through a sieve, then re-ground and re-sieved the leftover portion that wouldn’t go through the sieve the first time. The picture above kind of shows you the final outcome; it was still coarse, kind of like sand, and while it was bone dry, it was kind of sticky. You can see where it’s stuck to the sides of the bowl, which was also completely dry. I’m not sure how else to describe it; it certainly wasn’t like any flour I’d used before. Still, it was a flour of sorts, so I went with it.
I was ready to attempt my Sesame Prawn Pancakes. Here is the recipe:
- 1/2 tsp shrimp paste
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1/4 cup frozen cocktail prawns, defrosted
- 1 egg
- 80 ml oat milk (or any other milk)
- another 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp fish sauce
- green part of a spring onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds – half black, half white – plus another tsp for sprinkling
- 4 tbsp brown rice flour
First, I put the shrimp paste and sesame oil in one of the mini woks and heated, mashing with a spatula, until the paste and oil were mixed into a slightly thinner paste. I added the prawns to the wok and stirred to coat evenly, then set aside.
In a jug, I beat the egg, then added the milk and whisked. To this I added the rest of the sesame oil, the fish sauce, the spring onion, the sesame seeds and the prawns. I whisked this together again, then added the rice flour. The result was a thick but pourable batter, which I at least partially succeeded in photographing. The looming pink blobs are just my fingertips, be not afraid.
I cleaned out the wok I’d used for the prawns and set all six woks on the heating surface till they were very hot. Then I poured in enough batter to cover the basse of each – it was barely enough to make five pancakes, in the end. I sprinkled a pinch more of sesame seeds over the top of each, then left the pancakes to cook for about two minutes, until bubbles were forming on the tops. I loosened them round the edges and flipped them to cook the other side. I do like this particular move, the pancake flip. It makes me feel like an absolute hero every time I get it right, and these little guys are perfect for flipping because they’re so small and quite sturdy.
I cooked for another two minutes, then flipped one back over to see how it looked. It looked good, lightly coloured on top and fully set in the middle, so I turned off the heat and flipped all the pancakes right way up, then slid on to a plate to serve, garnished with spring onion and chili rounds. I also made a fish fragrant dipping sauce, which is yet another recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Sichuan Cookery and is a mix of garlic, ginger, light soy, black vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil and spring onion. It’s just as complex and wonderful as it sounds. It’s not really meant as a dipping sauce, I don’t think; in the book it’s served over cold cooked chicken, and I can attest to the excellence of that combination, too.
I was so pleased with how these turned out, they were just what I wanted and when to nail it first time like that made me feel, once again, like a hero. A kitchen hero. Here are the last few photos (you can always tell when I’m pleased with a recipe, can’t you?).