Sunday, May 31, 2009

Getting Fresh

Over here in our home, I have to tell you that we've been getting fresh a lot. By that, I mean we've really been making and eating our share of fresh rolls. You know, fresh spring rolls? Or sometimes called summer rolls. I'm sure you've seen them served up in your favorite Thai restaurant, perhaps you've even ordered them. Here's the thing, I really don't like fresh rolls from restaurants. I find them very boring and bland. Usually most things seem to taste best when ordered from a good restaurant, but not these guys. When I first started making fresh rolls I really had no idea what I was doing and I ran into a few problems along the way. I think now I can say I know quite a bit about making these little stuffed, plump beauties.

Typically, I wouldn't feel right about sending you away without a recipe, but you see, fresh rolls are something you just have to feel your way through. And what you decide to put in them is impossible to limit and entirely up to you. I will give you some tips and tell you about the things we like to put inside. To start, to make these rolls, you really need access to a decent Asian market. There are lots of different types of the fresh rolls skins and some are made from rice flour and others tapioca or a combination of the two. I prefer the package that says BÁNH TRÁNG, SPRING ROLL SKIN. They say Panda Brand on the front and currently there is a large red rose, they are made from tapioca flour and are exported by Quang Tri Co. at 82 Nguyen Bieu. St. in Vietnam. Ashley over at Not Without Salt thought to photo the wrappers, so if you want a visual you can go there. Did I give you enough information there? I think so. Now go find them.

Also, it's really best if you cut and prep everything ahead of time and have it all laid out in the order that you want to add them in. Also, I found that making a little flavorful sauce to drizzle over the filling really amps up the flavor as well as using a dipping sauce. It's all up to you. You can use lettuce leaves whole as the first layer but I find it's easier to just shred the lettuce and add it later, whole leaves sometimes pierce through the wrapper and that will spell disaster. When we're craving fresh rolls we usually want them fast and with as little work as possible. For this reason, I choose proteins that are ready available. Many of you will prefer to cook up some chicken, pork, shrimp, or tofu but for me, I like to use canned seiten/gluten ingredients. It comes in little blue cans that are easily found at the Asian markets, it can come in the form of mock duck, chicken, and others. You have to play around with them and find the one you like best, I like it because it's high in protein and I don't have to do anything with it other than pick it apart a bit. This time we used some imitation crab meat I found at a Japanese market. There are also lots of different veggies you could use: bean sprouts, cilantro, cabbage, etc. Also, one last thing, when soaking the skins in hot water, you only need to soak them for about ten seconds. They will still feel hard and hold their shape, but once you are done putting the fillings in, they will have softened up.

We use in this order, chopped mint and Thai basil, thinly sliced carrots and cucumber, canned seitan product, chopped peanuts which are cheap and can be found in the markets, cellophane noodles, shredded lettuce and a sauce made from oyster sauce, seasoned rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and Sriracha sauce for heat. For five large rolls you only need a few tablespoons of the sauce at most. A little drizzle goes a long way. Then we use sweet chili or plum sauce for dipping which I usually thin with warm water and rice vinegar. And that's it. I hope you try these soon. They really are fresh and hit the spot when you are craving something satisfying and well, fresh.


Ann said...

Okay, your story has given me courage. I think I can do this. I'm hopeful that this WILL be the year I overcome my fear of working with rice papers and make my own spring rolls. I absoultely adore them!

RachelleLouise said...

Hi Ann... Yes! Give them a shot! I tell ya, if you have all of your fillings prepped, get a large shallow dish, add hot water, soak the sheets for 10-12 seconds and go for it! You'll get it in no time! My biggest problem is overfilling them! Let me know how they turn out for you! They are so refreshing, aren't they?