Vietnam-Inspired Mango Pancakes with Honey Coconut Cream
We all have habits and patterns in how we write, our personal voices, and preferred subject matter. It came to my attention this past weekend, as I glanced back through the archives, that my pattern seems to be every time I make pancakes, I write about mornings. Brown Butter Oatmeal Pancakes? Wrote about my morning routines. Banana Bread Chia Pancakes? An ode to dawn. Therefore, I have decided to continue with tradition and share some words about travel mornings along with these less conventional mango pancakes, inspired by my trip to Vietnam a couple months ago.
It is no secret that I am a hardcore morning person and that my small daily rituals are pretty much sacred. Being a dancer, I always feel that it is equally important to prepare both my mind and body for the day ahead. However, travel is one of those wonderful but precarious things that has the power to knock everything off center, especially if you happen to be traveling in a place like Vietnam where the culture is completely new and unknown. That is why I knew that while I was on the road, I had to find a way to hold on to some sort of morning practice in order to keep me grounded.
While having a good-sized hearty breakfast is absolutely part of my daily routine, most of the smaller more mindful practices come before the food. I start every morning with a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon. I had read some of those “wellness” articles a little while back about this being good for digestion and waking up your organs in the morning, but whether that’s true or not, there is something about it that just feels good and cleansing so I have stuck to it for over a year now. Of course when I am in a completely different country, who knows if I will have access to fresh lemons right away, so I’ve started carrying lime essential oil with me (one that is, in fact, edible) and adding a drop to warm or room temperature water first thing after waking up.
While I sip on that, I always have a book in hand. I am one of those people who is determined to travel with a book or two wherever I go, no matter the extra weight. When I first began backpacking around Europe, I had one of those ebook readers and used it maybe for a month before stashing it at the bottom of my backpack in favor of real, spine + paper books. The ritual doesn’t feel complete without them.
After finishing up my lemon water and a chapter or two of whatever I’m reading at the moment, I usually do a little bit of yoga and meditation, stretching out any sore muscles (especially necessary if I’m traveling for dance work) and clearing out my head before diving into the day. This can also be tricky sometimes, depending on where I’m traveling and what the sleeping situation is. While in Vietnam, we were in a few home-stays that had ample floorspace for sun salutes, but in others I resorted to some cat/cow and seated stretches on the bed. During other trips, I have even been in hostel dorms where I had to shut that little curtain they have for “privacy” on the bunk beds and quietly do some breathing exercises and back stretches before emerging from the little cave. This is all usually less then I would do at home, but I have found that even a minimum 5 minutes of yoga and 5 minutes of meditation can make all the difference.
To squeeze these practices in before breakfast, I often have to wake up maybe 30 minutes earlier than I normally would, but for me it’s a necessary sacrifice. These little rituals make me feel much more alive, awake, and ready to face a day of exploration than 30 more minutes of sleep would. Mason Currey wrote in Daily Rituals: How Artist’s Work,
“...one’s daily routine is also a choice, or a whole series of choices. In the right hands, it can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of a range of limited resources: time (the most limited resource of all) as well as willpower, self-discipline, optimism.”
All of these resources are not only important in the comfort of one’s own home, but even more valuable to maximize the experience of traveling, which is exactly why I choose to hold onto my own morning routines. It feels good to have something steady- something personal and internal- among the dizzying whirlwind of a new adventure, so that I can see it all with clear and open eyes.
Now breakfast itself, I should mention, is also sacred to me. Coffee and anything hearty, delicious and energizing are absolute necessities if I’m going to spend a day walking, sight-seeing, teaching, or dancing wherever I am in the world.
While we were in Vietnam, we had some pretty fabulous breakfasts of filling noodle soups, fruit plates, and gallons of Vietnamese coffee, but my favorite breakfast by far was the mango pancake at our homestay in Hoi An. Each pancake was the size of a standard dinner plate, perfectly eggy and golden brown, and was drizzled with a thin chocolate sauce.
Our host, Dinh, was the sweetest young woman who ran her own local cafe and after seeing how much my mom and I enjoyed the pancakes, was kind enough to give me the “recipe,” which was simply “mix a cup of quick-cooking flour, an egg, sugar, and fresh milk.” It sounded pretty similar to a standard pancake recipe, so I of course decided I would try to recreate these mango masterpieces at home. The first couple attempts at making the plate-sized pancakes miserably failed, so I eventually gave in and made smaller cakes, swapping out the sugar for honey and adding a dose of coconut in and on top for some extra tropical flavor. The result was perfect and transported me right back to Dinh’s Mountain Cafe in Hoi An, especially when served with some Vietnamese milk coffee alongside.
These mango pancakes are less fluffy and cake-y than a regular stack- really they are more like a cross between a pancake and a crepe. That was how we had them in Vietnam, so I was happy to be able to recreate the same doughy batter with a nice golden crisp around the edges and fresh, bright pops of mango in every bite. The honey coconut cream on top is optional, but highly recommended for an extra dose of tropical decadence. These sunny pancakes are absolutely getting added to my own Sunday-summer-morning routine.
Makes 6 medium-large pancakes (refined sugar-free)
- 1 cup (150g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 large egg
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
2 tbsp honey
1 cup (240ml) light coconut milk
1 fresh mango, sliced
butter for cooking
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Separately, in a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, melted coconut oil and honey until smooth. Add the coconut milk, then pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until smooth.
Heat a griddle or non-stick pan over a medium flame, then add a small pat of butter. Carefully ladle or pour roughly 1/4 of a cup of mixture onto the hot surface and place 3 strips of fresh mango across the top. Cook on one side until bubbles begin to form around the edges, then flip and cook another couple minutes or until golden brown. Repeat this until all the batter is used up. Serve hot with a dollop of cream (recipe below), a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkling of coconut flakes.
Honey Coconut Cream
Makes about 1 cup of coconut cream (vegan, gf, + refined sugar-free)
1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled in the fridge overnight
- 1 tbsp honey
Open the can of coconut milk (without shaking) and scoop out the thick cream that has formed at the top from chilling overnight and spoon it into a mixing bowl, being careful not to add any liquid. Using an electric mixer, whisk until it begins to stiffen, then add the honey and continue whisking until the cream doubles in size. Best used immediately.