Hue Omelettes

Even though it was one of the main areas of combat during the Vietnam war, Hue, the old imperial city, is still a magically beautiful place. When I watched these omelettes being made, the whole of Hue had a power cut and as the tiny restaurant serving this speciality possessed just two oil lamps it was quite hard to work out the exact method and ingredients. Also, since the charming family who ran the restaurant were all deaf and dumb, explanations were limited. However, my memory served me quite well and these light and crispy omelettes, stuffed with prawns, beansprouts and other Vietnamese flavours, make a delicious light supper or snack. Incidentally, they also taste good cold so would be excellent for a picnic.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 fresh red chillies
  • generous handful fresh coriander leaves
  • handful fresh mint leaves
  • 225 g/8 oz peeled prawns
  • 2 heaped teaspoons Thai shrimp paste without chilli (available from oriental grocers) or anchovy essence
  • 100 g/4 oz beansprouts
  • 6 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons cold water
  • groundnut oil for frying
  • salt

Method

Prepare the filling first. Cut open the chillies under running water and discard the seeds and stems. Slice the chillies across as finely as possible. Roughly chop the coriander and mint leaves. Put the prawns into a bowl and mix in the shrimp paste or anchovy essence. Have the beansprouts ready. Put 4 serving plates into a very low oven to warm, putting a piece of absorbent paper on each one.

To make the omelettes, break the eggs into a bowl and whisk lightly with a fork. Then whisk in the water, season with salt and stir in the sliced chillies and 2 teaspoons of the chopped coriander. Pour a layer of groundnut oil at least 1.25 cm/½ in deep into a small frying pan and put over a high heat until smoking. Then pour in about a quarter of the egg mixture and swirl around to form a circle. When the omelette has bubbled up right through to the centre and is very brown and crispy underneath, quickly pile a quarter of the prawns, beansprouts, coriander and mint leaves on one side of the omelette, then fold over to enclose the filling. Using a wide spatula, transfer carefully to one of the warmed serving plates.

The first person to be served should really start eating at once, or you can keep the omelettes warm in a low oven until you have cooked all of them. Before serving, gently lift the omelettes with a spatula and ease the absorbent paper from underneath.