Friday, February 5, 2010

Southeast Asian-Style Spring Rolls

Last week I made spring rolls for the second time in my life.  The first time was a disaster - the wrappers were ripping and sticking together.  I didn't really know the best way to soften the rice wrappers - luckily Cook's Illustrated had some advice and this time it was much easier.  My big mistake was letting the wrappers sit too long in water - you just want to dip the wrapper until just pliable (about 10 seconds).  These spring rolls were good, but I will definitely add some red leaf lettuce into the mix next time.  I also completely forgot about making some kind of dipping sauce - I was too busy making miso soup (click here to get the recipe), so below I have included some sauces from Martha Stewart's Great Parties book.

Ingredients for Southeast Asian-Style Spring Rolls, adapted from Cook's Illustrated:
-1 teaspoon granulated sugar
-1 1/2 tablespoons fermented fish sauce such as nuoc nam
-2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
-1 teaspoon salt
-3 ounces rice vermicelli
-1 large carrot, peeled and grated with a large holes of box grater (1/2 cup)
-1/3 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
-1  medium jalepeno or 2 Thai chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced, or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1 large cucumber, peel and cut half-wise and then cut 1/4 inch planks leaving the seeds behind.  Cut each plank into five 1/8 inch strips.  You should have about 40 strips of cucumber.
-8 round rice wrappers (8 inches in diameter)
-1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Thai basil leaves or mint leaves, small leaves left whole, medium and large cut in 1/2 inch pieces
-1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, loosely packed

To begin, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Meanwhile combine sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice in small bowl and set aside.
Add rice vermicelli and salt to the boiling water.  Cook until tender, but not mushy 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold water.  Drain again and transfer to medium bowl.  Toss 2 tablespoons of fish sauce mixture to noodles and set aside.
Grate carrot, mince chiles, and chop peanuts in small bowl.  Combine and toss with 1 tablespoon fish sauce mixture.
Slice cucumber and toss with 1 tablespoon fish sauce. 
Now you are ready to assemble your rolls.  Place a damp kitchen towel on the counter.  Fill a 9-inch pie plate with 1 inch of room-temperature water.  
Working one at a time, immerse wrapper in water until just pliable, about 10 seconds; lay softened wrapper on towel.  
All photos below taken AWD.
Scatter 6 cilantro leaves and 6 Thai basil or mint leaves over wrapper.  
Arrange 5 cucumber sticks horizontally on wrapper, add 1 tablespoon carrot mixture and about 2 1/2 tablespoons noodles on top of the carrots.  
Fold over 2 inches of bottom border over filling.  Fold left, then right side of wrapper of filling.  Roll filling to top edge to create a tight cylinder.
And your done!  Below are some recipes for the dipping sauces.

Ingredients for Peanut-Hoisin Sauce from Martha Stewart's Great Parties (makes  1 3/4 cups):

-1 cup hoisin sauce
-1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
-1/3 cup finely minced yellow onion
-1 tablespoon ground-chile paste, or to taste
-1 tablespoon finely chopped peanuts

Combine 1/2 cup water, hoisin sauce, vinegar, and onion in saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low; simmer until onions have softened, 7 to 9 minutes.  If sauce becomes too thick, add water.  Let cool.  Transfer to serving dish; top with chile paste and peanuts.

Ingredients for Vietnamese Dipping Sauce from Martha Stewart's Great Parties (makes 1 1/2 cups):

-1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
-1 teaspoon ground-chile paste
-1 Thai chile or serrano pepper, chopped, optional
-1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
-1/4 cup sugar
-2 tablespoons grated carrot, for garnish

With a mortar and pestle, pound garlic, chile paste, and fresh chile into a paste (or mince together with a knife).  It is best to wear plastic gloves so that the chiles don't burn; be sure not to rub your eyes after chopping.  Transfer to a bowl.  Add fish sauce, 2/3 cup hot water, lime juice, and sugar.  Whisk together until sugar dissolves.  Serve sprinkled with carrots.

Last year, at this time I made Rainbow Cake.  Click here for the recipe.

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