Monday, February 13, 2012

How to Make Vietnamese Rice Pancakes


Rice flour... Coconut milk ... Salt


Depart Chicago’s O’Hare airport on a 15 hour flight to Hong Kong. Change planes then board a 2-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam. Once there book a day tour of the Mekong Delta

Soon you will find yourself sharing a wooden boat with a handful of newly-made friends. Sip fresh juice from a hollowed out coconut as you cross the Mekong river. This mighty river that stretches over 3,000 miles from the Tibetan plateau to the South China Sea. On the way to one of its tiny islands near the river’s mouth you will see a number of large and small cargo boats, and glide past floating fish farms.

Here and there you might see youngsters dive to the river bottom to pull up handfuls of mud, loaded thick and high onto a nearby sampan. It will be sold as fertilizer at a nearby market.

On landing, cross a small bridge to begin your walking tour of the island. Along a footpath cut into the jungle, birds chirp and monkeys shriek and growl. Something moves in the brush at your feet. Keep moving!

A weathered brick building in the clearing houses a small group of local artisans. In the corner steam rises from a charcoal oven covered by a metal pan. The scent of cooking sugar and coconut fills the air.The guide will ask if anyone would like to learn how to make pancakes. This is your big chance!

See one, do one …

She sits in front of a bamboo table ringed with drying cakes. In the center is a bowl of thick, milky liquid which is scooped out with a metal ladle.

Deftly, she gives a quick demonstration of how this local delicacy is made. Now it’s your turn.

Carefully pour a generous portion of white goo onto the hot purple mat and give it a quick swirl. Cover with a bamboo hat for a few minutes. Then carefully wedge a long spatula under the steamed, delicate opaque disc.

Quickly, lift it off hot surface without the letting the sides stick.Ease it onto the bamboo table for final cooling. Tear off a small piece to nibble. It tastes a little sweet with a hint of coconut.

Your mentor smiles encouragement. Cameras snap and a few chuckles arise from the small gathering.

Success! You’ve made a local staple, and a great memory.

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