Monday, February 11, 2013

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Apart from making pizza when my friends came over, I have kind of been on somewhat of an Asian food kick lately. My brother was the one who pointed this out to me, citing the various stir-frys I made over the course of the week and an attempt at a Malaysian soup called Laksa (delicious result but not quite successful as a soup). When I stopped to think about why I was feeling so Asian I realized it was because I had gotten into the habit of watching Jamie Oliver's 15 minute meals every morning on Food Network while eating breakfast. As it happens, Jamie Oliver has a big thing for Asian food and every episode would feature at least one Asian dish. I guess after seeing him cook the meals it inspired me to do the same.

Last Friday my brother and I spent the evening together making dinner and then watching a movie. It was fun to be in the kitchen together and I tried to hang back as much as I could and allow him to be really involved, rather than just watching me do things. We made shrimp tacos and also these Vietnamese spring rolls, which had been on my list of things to make for quite some time.

The spring rolls were actually very easy and the most time consuming part was cutting up all of the vegetables into even pieces in order to have them ready for the rolls. I thought it might be difficult to work with the rice paper, as I had heard that it can get quite sticky, but I followed some instructions I had read online and it was no problem.

I found out from my brother that he had actually made spring rolls a few weeks ago in his foods class at school so in this situation he was actually the one showing me how to do it. The beauty of these spring rolls is that you can put anything you want in them. Because we were already making shrimp for the tacos, we used them in our spring rolls as well. But theoretically we could have used chicken or made them completely vegetarian.

I think that what truly makes the difference is the dipping sauce. I had found two different recipes and I put my brother in charge of making the sauces while I cut up all of the vegetables. The first sauce turned out disastrous...way too salty! I tried to salvage it with some sugar and also thin it out with water but there was no hope so we trashed it. The second sauce, however, was nice with a good balance between the salty soy sauce and lime and the sweet brown sugar.

In the end, I had a great time making dinner with my brother and I enjoyed his quirky commentary in the kitchen. The next morning we continued the experience by making breakfast burritos together with the leftover tortillas from the shrimp tacos. It was truly fun and I hope we repeat it again soon.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Note: The spring rolls can be tailored to fit individual preferences. The ingredients below are possible suggestions. The most important thing is to have everything cut into even pieces, lengthwise and laid out for easy assembly.
  • Rice paper
  • Vermicelli rice noodles, cooked
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Carrots, sliced
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Basil, chopped
  • Spinach/lettuce leaves
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Shrimp, cooked
  • Chicken, cooked
To Assemble:

  1. Fill a shallow dish with warm water. Dip the rice paper into the water and submerge completely for 10 seconds on each side. Remove and place on a flat surface.
  2. Layer the ingredients onto the bottom third of the rice paper and then fold the bottom over. 
  3. Fold in each of the sides and continue to roll from the bottom up, being careful not to rip the rice paper. The sheet should stick to itself.
For the dipping sauce:
  • 6 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 green onions, chopped
Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, and lime and stir until sugar completely dissolves. Add the chopped green onions and adjust with extra soy sauce or sugar if necessary.

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