Friday, November 14, 2014

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

When I suggested the sushi theme for Halloween this year, Scott's response was, "I don't get it."  I spent a long while explaining to him that we can still do it since we enjoy eating and preparing not just sushi, but many Asian dishes.  That's when I remembered about these Vietnamese Spring Rolls.

These would be an ideal date night activity since there is lots of sorting and assembling, but if you make them on your own just put on a good audiobook and go to town! This is the first time I made them with a Vietnamese chef, Trang, who worked with Scott in Utah.  They were sooo nice to teach us!  

1 lb ground beef-- brown, adding in ~2 spoonfuls finely chopped garlic, generous salt and pepper, a dash or two of seasoned rice vinegar, and juice from maybe half a lemon.  At the end/ish, add in a sprinkling of sugar to the meat.  This dish is all about the fresh ingredients, so try to get everything as fresh and real as possible!  The meat is what makes these spring rolls a "meal" at our house and not just an appetizer.  Using 1 lb ground beef generally yields 11 (8 inch) spring rolls for me.

Fresh Cilantro
Mint (and if you have any leftover, be sure to make some mint lemonade!)
-- This is the key to good spring rolls.  Taste each of the herbs before you start because once I made all the spring rolls and later realized that my basil was bitter and affected every single spring roll.  Wash, dry and pluck off the herbs from the stems.  I usually buy each of these herbs in a giant plastic bag, knotted at the end at an Asian grocery store.  Here in NYC I paid $1 for each herb, and I had more than enough.  Which brings me to my next point- don't skimp.  When washing and preparing your herbs, do way more than you think you'll need.  You want lots of each per roll, and its a hassle to prepare more herbs once you're in the assembly stage.  And also, I tear the basil and mint into halves or thirds to bring out the scent and flavor.

Bean Sprouts- These are also easy to get at the asian market.  They add a great crunch to the roll, don't skip these.

Dried Onion- We made this fresh when doing it with our Vietnamese chef friend, but since then I've used store bought and it's pretty good.  This is not onion powder, but little bits of dried onion. 

Vermicilli Noodles-  I always think I'll need a whole pack, but really just cook half the noodles that come in the package and save the rest for next time.  After they are boiled (just about 3 minutes) you need to rinse thoroughly with cold water so they don't get mushy and stick together.

Lettuce- Butter leaf is the best but I have used romaine and iceberg too.  This is primarily just to give the spring roll some shape and have a place to hold the meat, noodles etc... I prepare about 15 leaves at the start- break off any pointy ends and kind of shape them so they'll be long and somewhat narrow (while still able to hold the ingredients.)
Rice Paper- I use 8 inch circle paper and it works great.  Get a pan that is plenty big for the papers, and fill it with the hottest tap water.  Then soak the rice paper until it is soft and pliable but not yet mushy and folding over on itself.  I lay it on a mat and get to work. 

Lime- To use for lime juice
Here is the order of operations (But really just get everything in!):
I set everything out, ready to go so I put them together without disruption.

Noodles (use plenty)
Dried onion
Bean sprouts
Lots of herbs- several leaves of each
A generous squirting of lime juice all over the roll.

Then fold the bottom up over the lettuce, and then roll tightly.  You roll it up like you would a soft taco.  You can either leave the top open or close it the same way you did the bottom, your preference. 
(This picture rotated, the bottom is the folded side...)

 One thing to remember- food in Vietnam is beautiful, so don't do this sloppily.  Think of it as an art and try to make each roll more beautiful than the last!
The dipping sauce is 1 part soy sauce, 1 part vinegar, 2 parts beef broth.  I like it this way, but I don't know that I've perfected the sauce.  Experiment and see what you like!

Well, I think that's it!  I hope I didn't scare you too much with all the details!  This really is a delicious meal and worth the preparation!  Enjoy, and let me know if you make them!!


Chelsea said...

YUM spring rolls!

Noelle said...

Remember how the disaster girls tried these once? Only we forgot about the noodles and the rice paper was old and cracking so we called them "after the manner of" the spring rolls? Lol