Vietnamese Summer Rolls
Hey guys! If you haven't had these, they are rice paper wrappers wrapped spring roll style (but not fried, just eaten fresh) and stuffed with rice vermicelli noodles (or mung bean noodle) and fresh herbs like mint, cilantro and Thai basil. Also they usually have lettuce, julienned carrot and cucumber in them, sometimes also w/ cooked shrimp or little pieces of cooked meat. These are the bomb! And relatively easy! When you go to serve them, be sure they're not touching--they are sticky.
If you want to make these goodies vegetarian, either just leave out the meat entirely or substitute tofu marinated or fried up w/ some stir fry sauce of choice.
Everyone: for this to taste really good, it is essential that you have cilantro and thai basil inside! Thai basil tastes different from Italian basil--don't substitute. You can get Thai holy basil (green-purplish color) at most asian markets. Also including mint makes it a magical combination of flavors, so use fresh mint as well if you can find it.
We love to eat these when we're dining out at Vietnamese restaurants and I discovered how easy they are to make at home!
Now take a large dinner plate with a lip or a large tupperware container or similar container that is flat and big enough for a rice paper wrapper disc to fit in. (You will see various brands of these rice paper wrappers in the asian markets--the ingredients are usually just rice flour and tapioca flour. Perhaps some water and salt. They are roughly 8 inches across I think.
I use a lipped plate to soak the disc in, so I place the plate over a pizza tray so if water spills over it doesn't get anywhere. Set a layer of paper towels next to you for blotting briefly. Put some of the hot water, (but not so hot as to be too uncomfortable on your hands,) into the plate or container you'll use to briefly soak the disc. Take a rice paper disc and submerge it in the container, pressing gently to submerge it all in the water, for only about 5 seconds. You don't want to soak it too long or it will just fold up on itself and be way too tricky to work with. I found 5 or 6 seconds was great. Take it out of the water quickly and lay it for a second on the paper towel to quickly blot the one side then quickly pick it up and keep it in the circle shape, laying it on a dry dinner plate or cutting board.
Pick up a decent-sized clump of rice noodle with your hand and put it on the disc, not in the middle, but closer to your end. Lay the herbs and meat atop. Fold sides in toward middle then carefully roll until almost done, with about 1-2 inches left. Place a small bit of lettuce there and finish rolling. The lettuce will be transparent through the wrapper and look nice. Also, if you're using shrimp you can make it look really pretty by doing the same thing--roll everything else up part way then place the shrimp and finish rolling and they'll show through the wraper. On one night we didn't have lettuce so I saved the basil leaves for that outer edge of wrapping.
The flavor of this sauce combined with the thai holy basil and cilantro will make your mouth a very happy place!