If everything goes according to plans I will be visiting Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam later this year .. I'm really keeping my fingers crossed. I've never been there before and a few of my friends who have recently returned from Vietnam have such raving reviews. I can only imagine what they have experienced from watching travel and food documentaries featuring the exotic beauty and vibrancy of this country and it's people. Vietnamese food is also so, so good ... and I'm a sucker for scrumptious meals.
Thus with Vietnam in mind, I decided to make some fresh Vietnamese spring rolls. The beauty of these spring rolls is that you can add just about any ingredients you like. Substitute the shrimp, with sliced chicken or pork, or how about omitting meat or seafood altogether and use fried tofu for a vegetarian version.
Vietnamese Spring Roll (Goi Guon)
(makes 12 rolls)
12 rice paper rounds (banh trang)
3 oz. rice vermicelli, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, till soft
24 medium shrimp, unpeeled
1/2 small head green leaf lettuce(about 10-12 leaves)
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup of Thai sweet basil leaves
1/4 cup of mint leaves
1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped into 2" length
3 stalks scallions, cut int 2" length
1) Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the unshelled shrimp till pink and opaque, around two to three minutes or so. Fish out the shrimp but keep the water boiling; add the rice noodles and cook for a minute or so. Drain and rinse in cool water.
2) Peel and slice the shrimp in half lengthwise. Remove the black veins.
3) Peel apart the lettuce leaves and tear it roughly. Peel and julienne the carrots.
4) You’ll need a large bowl or pan, big enough to accommodate the rice paper round. Fill with warm water, and soak one wrapper for around a minute or so, until it’s soft and pliable.
5) Lay the wrapper on a plate or other flat surface. You’ll be placing your ingredients in the bottom half of the wrapper – if this is your first time making spring rolls, it’s a good idea to start with smaller quantities of the filing.
6) Begin with a small handful of lettuce in the bottom third of the wrapper, and add an approximately equal amount of rice noodle on top of the lettuce. Top with a neat row of carrots and bean sprout. Next add some of the herb mixture and top off with the sliced scallions.
6) Fold up the bottom, then the two sides; continue rolling up, keeping the wrapper firmly around the ingredients to get a good roll, but be careful not to tug too tightly so as not to tear the wrapper. Just before the last 2 rolls, lay a row of sliced shrimp on the top of the roll, pink side up. Continue to finish rolling the wrapper.
7) Finish off with the rest of the wrappers. Unfortunately, the rolls don’t keep well, so serve them straight away*, with plenty of dipping sauce. If you’re serving them as an appetizer, you can cut the rolls in half using a sharp knife.
*If you absolutely must make them ahead of time, place them in an airtight container lined with damp towel and store at cool room temperature, not in the fridge. These will keep for an hour or two.
Hoisin-Chili Dipping Sauce
Like any salad, Vietnamese spring rolls need a dressing to bring out the fresh flavors of the ingredients. This spicy-sweet sauce makes the perfect dipping sauce to accompany fresh spring rolls.
1 shallot or 1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tsp Asian red chili paste (such as sambal oelek, but any chili paste will do)
2 Tbsp chopped peanuts for garnish
Stir-fry the minced garlic or shallot for a minute or two, until the garlic is softened. Add the hoisin sauce, rice vinegar and water, and bring to a boil. Add chili paste to taste. Remove from heat, pour in a dipping bowl, and garnish with chopped peanut.