Sunday, December 6, 2009

Roll With Me Hungry!

(a nod to Etta James for title inspiration)
Vietnamese Salad Rolls snuggling cozily

Vietnamese Salad Rolls are one of the things that I love to order when hungry, in a hurry, and not wanting to feel comatose after a large meal. When out for a bite, I usually eat a lot and gravitate towards set menus. This is mostly because of my rather grand appetite, an inability to decide on what to order (because I want everything), and because a variety of foods usually provides the full range of flavours I need to feel satisfied. Vietnamese Salad Rolls are not considered a full meal, but after eating a few, can satisfy just as a full meal can. Why? Because these tubular delights are filled with protein, fresh vegetables and starch. And when dipped in its accompanying sauce, achieves a perfect savoury flavour balance. I love the Salad Roll!

And thankfully, I now have a method for making these morsels that puts them on my regular menu at home. I had been all but discouraged in the past after creating too many rolls with holes in them. In retrospect, I had probably put too much filling in each, but it does take care not to tear the paper while rolling. My current method is virtually tear-free, and the recipe for the sauce is a true winner. I have to give kudos to one of my Vietnamese students for this recipe because it makes these rolls rock.

The ingredients for the rolls are: round rice paper, cooked vermicelli noodles, and the filling of your choice. Thinly sliced pork and prawns boiled, de-veined and sliced lengthwise are traditional, but this time I decided to use deep-fried tofu, green leaf lettuce, carrots and cilantro. Basil tastes great in this too.

For the sauce you will need: 3 tbsp hoisin sauce, 2 tbsp coconut milk, 1 tbsp peanut butter, a minced clove of garlic, and oil. Mix it all together in a small saucepan, add water for the desired consistency and taste, and stir at medium heat until it bubbles. Turn the heat off and serve.

Now for the rolling. In the past, I have rolled it with the rice paper open, (and this is the way it's done at the restaurants), but this is the trick I am most pleased with: folding the rice paper in half before you roll it. This way, the skin is thicker, and it is easier to keep the filling together as you roll without any tearing. It seems simple but it made a big difference for me. I think it makes them look nicer too, because the stuffing sticks out at each end enticingly. And after the first bite, you will be enticed into another and another. That's because Vietnamese Salad Rolls really are fresh, filling, and flavourful all in one. And perhaps, a little too fast to eat!

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