Recipe Project #145-46: Khmer Pancake and Dipping Sauce

The Ithaca Farmer’s Market opens today, and we are not there. I’m more fond of the produce and vendors at the Regional Market, which has the added benefit of being just across town instead of 60 miles away. (Plus, it’s April, a time when ain’t nobody going nowhere if you’re an academic.) But one thing that the Ithaca Market has is the Cambodian food stand, which produces truly amazing and copious filled pancakes. These are completely unlike American pancakes, and I’ve been experimenting off and on over the past couple of years with making my own. The last couple of versions have finally almost nailed it, and so I’m filing the recipe here.

The quality of the ingredients is crucial, especially when it comes to the sprouts. One of the things that’s really been putting these last few batches over the top is Mr. Husband’s home-grown sprouts. We tend to buy bags of mung bean sprouts from the Korean grocery weekly, but lately he’s been growing them in a corner of the kitchen along with fenugreek sprouts and sprouted wheat. The wheat goes into porridge and the mung beans and fenugreek go into any number of things, including this pancake.

My version of Khmer pancake is adapted from this one and serves two.

3/4 cup of rice flour
1/2 tsp turmeric
1(+/-) cup of water
1/4 pound of ground pork
1/2 teaspoon of chili-garlic sauce
2 green onions, slivered
1/2 medium purple onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup of red or orange pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup of mushrooms, thinly sliced
Fistfuls of almost any sort of sprouts, esp. mung bean
Soy sauce
Olive or peanut oil

Whisk together the rice flour, turmeric, and water. Begin by adding 3/4 cup of the water, whisk, and then add more based on consistency. I find that rice flours vary quite a bit in how much water they require. You’re aiming for a very thin batter that will be able to run between the nooks and crannies of the other ingredients.

Set the largest, flattest skillet you have over high heat. Heat enough oil to slick the bottom of the pan and fry the pork and chili-garlic sauce together until the pork is done. Add the onion, pepper, and mushrooms and saute until crisp-tender. Add a splash of soy sauce and stir it all around, then arrange everything evenly across the bottom of the pan.

Turn the heat all the way up and pour in the batter, doing your best to distribute it evenly. Slap a lid on it, but keep an eye on condensation so the top of your pancake isn’t getting wetter rather than dryer. When it’s done (which will probably take longer than you think), you’ll be able to touch the surface with a finger and press in without much give. Nothing will still be bubbling, and the edges will be a bit brown and start pulling away from the edge of the pan. Sprinkle as many sprouts as you’d like on one half, fold the pancake over, and serve with sauce.

Dipping Sauce:
1-2 small Thai chiles or dried chile flakes (or both)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 cup fish sauce (lately we’re using nuoc mam, the Vietnamese version)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup sugar (white or, if you have it, palm sugar)

Combine everything and stir until sugar is dissolved. If you’re not used to it, it will likely taste odd by itself but delicious on the pancake.

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