Thursday, February 16, 2012

Make Your Own Spring Rolls

Spring rolls make a nice appetizer when you go out to eat at some fancy-pants restaurant, and they’re just as nice when you eat them at home in front of the television or computer where you spend 80% of your waking life.

All you need to make spring rolls are rice paper and some tasty ingredients to roll up inside. You can buy rice paper at any Asian food store, most health food markets, and in the ethnic foods section of many local grocery stores. It’s an economical buy. The last batch I bought was a package of 20 for $2.25 U.S. dollars. It comes in sheets, like paper, but usually round in shape; it doesn’t feel like paper, though—it feels more like plastic, almost like something you’d find at the hardware store, but don’t let that put you off, it softens up quickly in warm water. Despite its initial plasticky appearance, it’s not bad for you, or particularly good for you either—rice, tapioca, salt, and water are the prime components. How your spring rolls taste will be determined by the ingredients you roll up inside, and any dipping sauce you might like to serve them with. It’s a great vehicle for getting raw vegetables into your diet; I like to think of a spring roll as a cigar-shaped salad, but many pre-cooked meats and seafood work well in spring rolls, too.

Rice Paper and
Whatever the hell you wanna roll up in the rice paper.
Here are a few options I like to use: cilantro (I ALWAYS USE CILANTRO), cucumber, basil leaves, lettuce, carrots, sprouts, rice noodles, steamed shrimp, stir-fried spicy pork, bell pepper, green onions, cabbage, and on and on and on…
there’s no end to what you can use.

Prepare your filling ingredients—mainly making sure the ingredients are chopped or sliced in a manner which will make them rice paper-wrapping friendly—this is especially true if you plan on slicing the spring rolls in half—your filling ingredients will tumble out easily if they’re too loose and tiny.
Place warm water in a pan large enough to accommodate a sheet of rice paper. Hot water from the kitchen tap will be warm enough. Submerge a rice paper sheet and in only a few moments (seconds) it will become soft and pliable. Remove the rice paper from the water and spread it flat on a cutting board or plate. Place your filling ingredients at one end of the sheet and roll them up in the rice paper like a burrito. It’s very important that the first rollover be tight—compact the ingredients as much as possible—a loosely rolled spring roll is a sad sight, and will quickly fall apart if sliced. The rice paper will be your friend. It will help. It is very sticky and will seal almost like an envelope around your stuffings. If you want a tasty spring roll, it’s as easy as rolling up a tasty combo of ingredients—a yummy dipping sauce will help, and here are two:

Peanut Dipping Sauce:
1 Tbsp Peanut Butter
1 Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
1-2 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil

Chili Dipping Sauce:
2 Tbsp Chili-Garlic sauce
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp Sesame Seeds

And just plain old soy sauce works fine, too. Or maybe some hot mustard—I’ve never tried that, but it just popped into my head, so maybe next time I’ll give it a go.

Alright, that’s enough blabbing.

Give spring rolls a try and bon appétit!

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