I came across a vendor making these sweets 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, a 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, since the lush coconut-milk filling was 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.
I’ve experimented with using all rice flour as well as a mix of all-purpose and rice flour. Both work fine, but the mixture of flours gives more crispness. 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.
Whisk the batter ingredients together in a medium bowl until perfectly smooth. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes. Mix the filling ingredients together in a bowl until perfectly smooth; set aside.
Heat a 7- or 8-inch cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat. Add a little oil and then after 20 seconds wipe the pan out with a paper towel. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Stir the batter. It should be very liquid; add a little more lukewarm water to thin it if necessary, and stir again. Pour a scant ¼ cup batter into the pan and lift and tilt the pan 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.
Take the pan off the heat, fold the crepe in half, and transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter and filling.
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