Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Table Salad
Vietnamese food is a cuisine that I CRAVE! Full of antioxidants and vitamins naturally and a perfect balance of spicy, sweet, salty and sour... it's totally addictive. It originates from a climate very similar to our hot, sticky Texas summer weather so these Vietnamese Spring Rolls are a natural go-to for us in the summer.
Both versions of this recipe are light, and my boys love them, it's basically salad in a roll format so how much more summer-light and healthy can you get.
These rolls are also a way to wrangle your family into helping since it does involve a lot of prep. (No cooking, though!)
In spite of the many prep steps, the ingredients are very interchangeable.
Other than needing rice paper wrappers (Don't have them?...keep reading) to roll everything in, you can certainly Cook What You've Got.
- You can use any sort of salad greens: very thinly sliced cabbage, bok choy, lettuce, spinach, mixed greens.
- Herbs can be any tender herbs you might find in an Asian garden: cilantro, basil (any variety will work, but Thai basil if you have it is the best), mint, chives, scallion (green onion) tops - the green part.
- Fillers can be any very thinly sliced (matchsticks) vegetables you might have around: summer squash, carrots, scallions, cucumbers, sweet peppers, radishes even young turnips.
- While tonights' version was strictly veggies, IF they are on hand, I might include some cooked rice noodles, but you could certainly use warm, cooked rice to give them more density also.
- And finally, for vegetarians or those observing Meatless Monday you can use thin egg omelets cut into strips or you can use cooked shrimp or chicken for other not-so-food-conscious days. If you leave all animal protein sources out though as I did today, you can make peanut sauce that will more than fill the protein needs.
My basic peanut sauce (that I've trained my boys to make since they practically drink it) starts with 1/3 cup natural peanut butter mixed with a few tablespoons of hot water to thin. I add tamari (or soy) sauce, agave nectar (or brown sugar), rice wine vinegar (or lime juice) and chile garlic sauce until it tastes good to me. The whole idea with Southeast Asian food is to balance sour, salty, sweet and heat. So when it tastes good to you and all those things are balanced it's ready to go. When my kids make it for themselves they tend to leave out the heat part so no chile garlic sauce for them.
So here's how it all goes down.
- Prep all your greens, herbs, veggies, noodles, sauce and protein sources if using. (May want to call in the troops for this or use it as your Zen time.)
- Make your sauce.
- Set a pie plate of warm water next to a large clean countertop area or cutting board for rolling.
- Grab your family to help with the next few steps for sure.
Place one rice paper wrapper in the warm water and move it around until it's completely wet and soft.
Move it around until the entire sheet is saturated and soft.
Place some greens, herbs and veggies and other filling ingredients as shown
Fold up the sides over the veggies
and tuck the ends under to make a tight roll
Cut in half in the diagonal or in thirds to reveal the colorful middle.
NO RICE PAPER WRAPPERS
So full disclosure, I actually only made one spring roll tonight. I was feeling lazy and my family was too busy at the moment to recruit them for rolling so I did this version instead. Place the prepped ingredients that you have in mounds on a large platter leaving room for a few ramekins of extras. Arrange large romaine, iceberg or butter lettuce leaves on another platter. Fry some shallots in peanut or grapeseed oil (or whatever kind you have) until brown, drain on paper towels then place in a ramekin and sprinkle with salt. Add a ramekin that has chopped peanuts, cashews or almonds, and make a quick dipping sauce from equal parts soy sauce, lime juice (or rice wine vinegar), agave and chile flakes. Add a little sesame oil to balance it all out. Instruct your family or guests to wrap what they want in a large lettuce leaf then spoon the dressing over each wrap. This is called a Vietnamese Table Salad.