Big Daddy's     Cooking with Attitude

Thai Chile

 

 

Southeast Asian Fresh Rolls

For a long time I have enjoyed these wonderfully light and crunchy rolls at our local Vietnamese restaurants and I finally decided it was time to try these at homes.   They're quite easy, actually, only requiring that you master the art of working with rice paper.  It also requires that you find the right combination of fillings to suit your particular taste.  The ingredients below are what I've settled on even as it omits two traditional items usually used in Vietnamese recipes, mint leaves and, for protein, either small shrimp or thin sliced pork.  This make about 15 to 20 rolls depending on how much filling you use for each.

Amounts below are approximate.

4 cups   shredded cabbage
1/3 cup   scallion greens, finely chopped
cup   red bell pepper, diced
cup   mushrooms, finely chopped
2 ounces   rice vermicelli (available in most large supermarkets)
1 tablespoon   Thai Kitchen Lemongrass Splash (available in most large supermarkets)
1 pinch   five spice powder
1 teaspoon   ground Sichuan peppercorns
warm water and a pie plate

This combination of ingredients should be considered a starting point - vary them as necessary to suit not only what taste good to you but also to what you have on hand.

Cook the rice vermicelli according to the package instructions.  Rinse thoroughly with cool water and allow to dry.  Dust with the Sichuan peppercorns to taste.

Combine the veggies and toss with a few dashes of the Lemongrass Splash. Dust with 5 spice powder to taste.  Put hot water into a pie plate to about full.  Because the water needs to be warm to hydrate the rice paper I keep a tea kettle simmering on the stove so I can freshen the water in the pie plate periodically.

Put a sheet of rice paper into the warm water and soak.  Place on cheesecloth or towel and pat dry. Lay in a bit of vermicelli and top with veggies. Roll once, tuck in sides and complete the roll.

Nothing is required to make them stick at the end of the roll because the hydrated rice paper is already sticky and holds the roll together very well.

Serve this with a peanut sauce or a hot and sour garlic sauce (or both) for dipping.  You'll find recipes for both in the Extras section of my cookbook.

Notes:

When using the rice paper I soak one, pat it dry and lay on the vermicelli.  At this point I put another one in the warm water to start soaking while I finish the first.   This way the next one is ready soon after finishing with the previous one.

Try to find round rice paper.  I find the ones that are wedge shaped to be too small.

Play around with the amount of filling, starting with about 2 tablespoons.  Leave an inch on each end with the stuffing in the middle about 1/3 up from the edge nearest you.  Pull the bottom of the paper over the filling and hold that while folding in the ends, then complete the roll.

To shred the cabbage stack a few leaves together after removing any stem portion.   Now slice very thin strips with a sharp knife and cut into pieces about 2 inches long.

As you make each roll place on a platter and cover with damp paper towels to keep them from drying out.  Also do not make these more than an hour or so before serving as they do not hold well (hence the name "fresh" rolls) so make your dipping sauces first.

Once again - experiment!  These are like any other kind of wrap, like burritos or tacos, in that everyone makes them a little differently according to personal taste.

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