"These pancakes are delicately folded around golden chunks of juicy, ripe mango, mingled with passionfruit to add a sharp kick and a lovely fragrance. Over the top goes a smattering of toasted coconut, for texture and a delicious sweet coconut taste. Finally, some blueberries, because they’re great with mango and because more fruit in your breakfast can only be a positive thing."
During my trip to Vietnam last summer, one of my favourite discoveries was a little café near our hotel in Saigon. Each morning for three days, we would take a seat at the same table, and make a show of perusing the menu even though I always knew exactly what I wanted.
A few minutes later, presented on a large plate, would be a giant pancake, thick and golden, like an enormous French crêpe, soft and fluffy in the centre, crispy and golden around its frayed edges, no doubt from being cooked in liberal amounts of butter. Inside would be meltingly soft chunks of golden mango, at their pinnacle of ripeness and brimming with luscious, perfumed juice.
Seven months on, I still reflect fondly on those pancakes, so the other day I decided to have a go at recreating them in my own kitchen. I’ve used a simple crêpe batter for these pancakes, but with a twist: instead of milk, they’re made using coconut milk. This delivers a subtle, sweet coconut flavour, and also has the advantage of making them dairy free.
The recipe below makes about ten pancakes, depending on the size of your pan; I normally serve three to four per person, so this would probably serve three people or two hungry ones with a couple of pancakes left over (you can always put them in the fridge and then microwave them to reheat later). While not quite as authentic as the original, these make a fabulous breakfast, particularly if you drizzle over a little maple syrup at the table.
So get your whisk and frying pan out, put on your apron, brew some tea, and enjoy a little taste of the tropics in your own kitchen!
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt. Make a well in the middle of the flour using a spoon and crack in the eggs. Using an electric whisk (you can use a hand whisk but you get a smoother batter with electric), start whisking the eggs into the flour, adding the coconut milk a little at a time and gradually incorporating more of the flour around the eggs as you go. You should end up with a smooth, quite thick, batter. (If you are using bananas instead of eggs, mash them up and mix in as above). Loosen it a little by whisking in the milk or water.
Prepare the mango filling by cutting the mango into thin slices or small chunks, the easiest way to do this is to cut the cheeks off the mango stone, then score them in a criss-cross pattern and turn them inside out so you have a hedgehog shape and can then slice the flesh away from the skin. Put in a bowl. Halve the passionfruit then scoop out the seeds and juice and add to the mango.
Toast the desiccated coconut in a dry pan over a low heat until it turns golden. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 120C. Get a non-stick frying pan of around 20cm diameter very hot. Add a knob of butter (or coconut oil if you’re using the vegan method) and swirl it around, then use kitchen paper to wipe it around the pan, removing any excess. Ladle some of the pancake batter into the pan, just enough so you can tilt the pan to spread it around to the edges. Cook for a minute before flipping the pancake over with a palette knife and cooking on the other side for a minute or so.
When all the pancakes are cooked, place one on a plate, spread the mango mixture over a quarter of it, then fold the pancake over it, then over again, so you end up with a triangle stuffed with mango. (You can also just put the mango in a line down the centre and roll the pancake up around it). Repeat with all the pancakes, then arrange on plates. Scatter with the toasted coconut and some blueberries, then serve, with maple syrup to drizzle over, if you like.