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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls

What do you get when you mix rice paper, rice vermicelli, hoisin sauce, and shrimp? I’ll give you a hint; you get the most delicious spring rolls you’ve ever tasted. My mom is a spring roll making machine and although they are meant to be eaten as an appetizer, as kids we could gobble up 3, 4 or even 5 if she let us. The traditional ingredients are shrimp, thinly sliced pork, garlic chives, rice vermicelli, lettuce, mint, Thai basil, all wrapped up in rice paper. After the rice paper is softened with water, it’s translucent. Underneath the supple paper, you get little peeks of what the roll holds.

Fresh Spring Rolls
(About 6 rolls)

Rice paper
1 bunch of rice vermicelli, soaked in hot water for 3-5 minutes then drained and set aside
1/2 lb. cooked shrimp, cook in salted water for 30-60 seconds, depending on the size of the shrimp
1/2 lb. pork tenderloin or another cut of lean pork, poached in salted water then thinly sliced, do not overcook.
Garlic chives
Spearmint and Thai basil
Lettuce, ribs removed, to avoid puncturing the rice paper

For the sauce:

Hoisin sauce
Peanut butter
Roasted ground peanuts

The trickiest part of making these rolls is handling the rice paper. There are two ways of soften the paper: The first way is to fill a mister bottle with warm water and mist the paper while holding it upright so all the excess water drips off. Spray the edges first so that he middle does not get too soft too fast and tear.

The second way is to fill a large bowl with warm water and dip the paper in the water, edges first then the entire sheet, shake excess off or let drip off. I often run the paper between my forefinger and middle finger in an attempt to “squeegee” the paper.

Once the paper begins to soften put on a work surface and you can begin the assembly. After the paper begins to soften it sticks to itself much worse than Saran Wrap or cling film. Try not to handle it at this point, let it lay flat until after you have piled the ingredients on. I usually layer the rice vermicelli, the lettuce, pork, shrimp, mint and basil. Place all the ingredients on the lower third of the rice paper, fold the ends (left and right sides) over and begin to roll like a burrito. After one complete turn lay the chives across the paper and complete the roll.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

For the sauce, mix and equal amount of Hoisin sauce and peanut butter in a small sauce pan, thin with water slowly and let heat and come to a simmer. My dad thins his sauce with 7-Up so he does not dilute the flavor. Taste and adjust peanut butter to your liking, spoon sauce into a little dish and top with ground, roasted peanuts.


At 10:07 PM, Anonymous rowena said...

This is lookin so killer yummy that I'm looking forward to yanking out the asian ingredients when my son gets here. He'll probably tell me that he came all the way here for italian food, but what do I feed him? Asian! Hahaha!

At 11:25 PM, Blogger Judith in Umbria said...

I adore these. I once had a roll your own party and did we make a mess! I think I wet the rice paper too much. I have all the ingredients here except hoisin sauce. Hope springs eternal.

At 1:20 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

What's wonderful about these rolls is the freshness of the ingredients and the unadulterated simplicity of the entire package. My hubby likes them too but I have to stuff them full for him.

At 2:27 AM, Anonymous Angelica said...

I stumbled upon your weblog while looking for a recipe for coconut candy and I have enjoyed your blogs ever since! I am from Guam and it has been fascinating reading about your Italian adventures...keep up the great work! I recently tried making these spring rolls and I have to say that your recipe was not only simple but it received two thumbs up from my family! I can't wait to make these for my colleagues at school (I teach 6th grade at FBLG Middle School)...we kinda have a lunchtime cook and share club. Thanks for the recipe!


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