I came across a vendor making these sweet street-side Burmese crepes one sleepy Sunday afternoon in Rangoon. She had two bowls—one of batter, the other of filling—and two small charcoal burners going. On each was a curved metal pan, like a miniature wok but much heavier.
She added a little of the thin batter to one of the pans, lifted it to swirl the batter around, and put it back on the fire. It crisped up almost immediately on the hot metal surface. Then she ladled some of the filling onto the center of the crepe and covered the pan with a lid. A minute later, she turned the confection out onto her work surface. It was beautiful and delicate and looked like a Sri Lankan hopper [Editor's Note: This is a pancake of sorts] with its bowl-shaped curve of fine crisp crepe, but with a thickened bulge of filling at the base.
I thought she’d just hand it to me, but no, rather shockingly, she folded two sides over the middle, breaking the delicate structure, and handed it to me all flattened. At the first bite I was in heaven, the lush coconut-milk filling a perfect creamy complement to the fine outer shell.
With specialized ah-boh pans not available outside Burma, the best implement to use is a cast-iron skillet (a wok is not heavy enough). The heavy skillet gives the right texture, even though the curved bowl shape is missing. If you’re serving these for dessert, serve them straight from the pan with a scoop of sorbet on the side for a great contrast of texture and temperature.
By the way, the man who first told me the Burmese name for these blushed a little when I asked him what they were called. I didn’t understand his embarrassment until later, when I learned that ah-boh also means “vagina” in Burmese.–Naomi Duguid
LC Did We Mention These Burmese Crepes Are Gluten-Free? Note
Sorry if we’re just getting around to mentioning this now, but these Burmese crepes are gluten-free. By way of explanation, we like to wait and let you fall for a recipe based solely on its intrinsic goodness, and then be pleasantly surprised when you realize it just happens to also fall under some dietary confines. Don’t you love when that happens? Author Naomi Duguid, notes that she’s experimented with using all rice flour as well as a mix of all-purpose and rice flour, and while “both work fine,” she finds the resulting texture to be crisper with the mixture of flours. But we quite like the rice flour rendition. Suit yourself.
Burmese Crepes Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 30 M
- 1 H
- Makes about 8 crepes
- For the batter
- 1 cup rice flour
- Scant 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or substitute 1/2 cup rice flour)
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- For the filling
- 6 tablespoons canned or fresh coconut milk (not low-fat; shake the can before measuring or use the cream floating on the surface)
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- For the crepes
- Peanut or vegetable oil, for the skillet
- Make the batter
- 1. Whisk the rice flour, all-purpose flour (or additional rice flour), water, salt, sugar, and baking soda together in a medium bowl until perfectly smooth. The batter should be runny. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Make the filling
- 2. Mix the coconut milk, sugar, rice flour, and baking soda together in a small bowl until perfectly smooth. The filling should have the consistency of pancake batter. Set aside.
- Make the crepes
- 3. Heat a 7- or 8-inch cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat. Add a little oil to the skillet, wait about 20 seconds, and then wipe the skillet out with a paper towel. Place the skillet back over the heat and increase the heat to medium-high. Stir the batter. If necessary, add a little more lukewarm water to thin it so it will spread easily and stir again. Pour a scant 1/4 cup batter into the skillet and lift and tilt the skillet so the batter flows out to the edges. Cover and cook for 20 seconds or so. Spoon 1 generous tablespoon filling onto the center of the crepe, cover, lower the heat slightly, and cook for 1 minute. Check to see if the filling has set; if not, cover and cook a little longer.
- 4. Take the skillet off the heat, fold the crepe in half, and transfer it to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling, wiping the skillet with the oiled paper towel if needed between crepes to prevent sticking. Serve hot.
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Burmese Crepes Recipe © 2012 Naomi Duguid. Photo © 2012 Naomi Duguid. All rights reserved.