I love welcoming the world into my kitchen , especially by travelling through flavours. Exotic vanilla, burning chillies, unexpectedly flowery cardamom, warming cinnamon or cloves… The appeal of far-away flavours and food is unabated by their modern availability!
Though I wish sometimes that I could enjoy them with the trepidation the great explorers of past times must have felt when coming back with the first plant of cocoa (Hans Sloane) or the first root of ginger (Marco Polo)… Now, that must have been something!
For the weekend, I give you a well-loved Vietnamese recipe! Thanks to the lovely Bhopa who taught me to roll them properly during the summer, mine look now as delicate and neat as they taste. No difficulty at all. Easy peasy recipe! Though I’ ll upload a drawing if I can.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Ingredients list: for about a dozen rolls
- One handful of cooked prawns
- Handful of thin rice noodles or rice vermicelli
- ½ grated carrot
- 3 Tbsp of dry shiitake mushrooms
- Fish sauce 4 Tbsp
- Soy sauce or oyster sauce 2 Tbsp
- Ground pepper
- Egg, 1
- Rapeseed oil for frying
- Thai or Vietnamese rice paper
For the dipping sauce:
- Rice vinegar
- Agave syrup
- Fish sauce
Mix one equal part of each in a dipping bowl and serve that sauce with the warm rolls, some fresh lettuce leaves and sprigs of fresh mint.
First, boil some water and soak the rice noodles and the mushrooms, separately in two bowls.
Then put the other ingredients in a big bowl and season to your taste. Don’t forget the pepper and fish sauce.
Add the beaten egg to link it through.
Drain the noodles and the mushrooms and add them in. At this stage you can either chop the whole lot very roughly with a sharp knife or put it for a few seconds in a food processor. You want a rough and chunky mix in which each ingredient can sing its own tune and where none should overwhelm the others – least the noodles!
Leave to rest for one hour in the fridge – This is great to prepare in the afternoon and then you just have to roll them in the rice paper and fry them up just before sitting down for dinner.
When you are ready, prepare a tray full of water and a wet cloth: Dip the rice paper in the water on both sides, lay it on the cloth and put a small spoonful of stuffing about three fingers from the top end. Bring down the top over the stuffing, then fold both sides over this, joining in the middle and start rolling down as tight as you can. Reserve each of your treasures under a second cloth.
Once you have used up all of the filling, heat a bit of oil in a wok or deep pan and fry each roll lightly on all sides until they colour a little.
Put them on kitchen paper to drain the excess oil and eat immediately. This is how: You roll the spring roll into a salad leaf with a mint leaf or two and you dip into the sauce before devouring with glee! It’s messy and delicious.
This is evidently a weekend recipe, for when you have a bit of time and can invite some friends around to pat you on the back! Who doesn’t need that?! I dedicate this to Mum and Dad who are soon off to Vietnam! Lucky them.