How ironic! I wrote this post last night when the weather was warm and balmy. What a difference a day makes! Temperatures have dropped, there has been a steady drizzle of rain all morning. What’s more we are bracing for afternoon storms. In the southern states it is even snowing! By the weekend the Bureau of Meteorology is promising hot, humid conditions again. All I can say is that these Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls were a perfect choice for dinner last night. Who knows what the weather will be when you read this post. At worst I hope it brings a ray of sunshine to an otherwise dreary day and evoke memories of a perfect summer day.
With temperatures reaching 30C, you could be excused for thinking summer has arrived early in Sydney. Our clocks were put forward one hour this week for the start of daylight savings so the early evenings are balmy and bright. Its time to start eating dinner outdoors in the courtyard again. Perfect weather for Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls. Easy to prepare. No cooking. No fuss. There are those that might scoff and dismiss these as ubiquitous Vietnamese street food, but I think they are fresh, delicious and irresistible. I always feel so virtuous biting into a rice paper roll; after all they are bursting with healthy, crunchy vegetables, and flavoursome, soft herbs. I like to think of them as a salad wrapped in rice paper, with a dressing on the side. Add a little seafood, chicken or beef and you have a complete meal that is healthy and light. Up the ante with a little Peking duck or slow roasted pork belly, and your rice paper roll may be a little gluttonous, but I promise it will scale new heights of deliciousness.
When I first started making these rolls I would diligently shred, slice and julienne all the vegetables, and then start rolling – ten, twenty or even thirty of these little beauties at a time. I’d be in the kitchen rolling, and hungry mouths would be hovering behind me, eating. I’d be lucky to get a bite. These days I’m a lot smarter, and most times will prepare the fillings and set them out in bowls and on small plates for everyone to roll their own. It’s such a lovely communal way to eat, and incredibly well suited to a balmy summer evening.
Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls with Seafood and a Lime Dipping Sauce
With the exception of the lettuce leaves, the vegetables for these rice paper rolls need to be shredded or julienned. Do this on a mandolin, or even easier, use the julienne slicer in your food processor. Use any soft leaf lettuce for this recipe. Not only is it easier to roll but the soft leaves won’t tear the delicate rice paper. Almost any combination of crisp vegetables and soft herbs can be used to create delicious rice paper rolls. Substitute poultry, pork, beef and even tofu for the seafood.
For a dozen large rolls I used:
12 large rice paper rounds; 22cm in diameter
100g smoked salmon
250g fresh prawns cooked in plenty of salted water, peeled and butterflied
1 butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
1 purple carrot, peeled and julienned
1 orange carrot, peeled and julienned
2 small sticks of celery, strings removed and julienned
1/2 red capsicum, deseeded and julienned
1 fresh baby beetroot, peeled and julienned
1/2 punnet alfalfa sprouts
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced lengthwise into thin strips
125g snow peas, strings removed and sliced lengthwise into thin strips
1 avocado, sliced thinly
50 g rocket shredded
2 long green spring onions, sliced lengthwise
Picked leaves of coriander, mint, basil and parsley
To Assemble the Rice Paper Rolls
Working with one rice paper round at a time:
FILL a wide shallow bowl or baking pan with about 5 centimetres of warm water.
SOAK rice paper in the water for about 30 seconds until just pliable but not limp.
TRANSFER the wrapper onto a clean, dry tea towel.
PLACE a slice of salmon or butterflied prawn in the centre of your wrapper. Top with a soft lettuce leaf.
PILE a selection of fresh vegetables and soft herbs into the centre of the lettuce leaf
ROLL wrapper halfway to cover filling, then tuck in the ends of the wrapper while you continue to roll making sure you wrap the filling tightly.
PLACE roll, seam side down on a serving dish.
CONTINUE to make another 11 rolls.
SERVE rolls cut in half on the diagonal with a dipping sauce.
Lime Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 fresh red bullet chillies, thinly sliced
1 long green spring onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and chill