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vietnamese summer rolls

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Vietnamese summer rolls

And just when I wrote down ‘spring rolls’ as the title it turns out these are not spring rolls at all - these are summer rolls. Spring rolls are wrapped in slightly thicker skins/wrappers, not uncommonly containing egg, and are usually fried and served with the chili sauce and that ubiquitous carved radish flower that Thai restaurants so love to garnish everything with. Lovely stuff. Undoubtedly close cousins to samosas, potstickers and gyoza, with filling and flavour of course varied regionally.

Summer rolls are a less frequently encountered beast, typically Vietnamese (though hopefully not less frequent in Vietnam), they don’t go anywhere near hot oil at the risk of crumbling and dissolving - the rice papers for summer rolls are much thinner and softer. They are far more guilt-free: no fat! no deep frying! next to no carbs! no radish flower! (did I get carried away?) Daintily packaged, with shrimp peeking pinkily through the thin film of the wrapper, like some kind of exotic reptile or jellyfish with transparent skin.

Just what you wrap as filling is flexible although the Vietnamese probably would draw a line at sausagemeat. Bits of freshness are needed especially if you include pork: cucumber, carrot sticks and I find pickled ginger goes very nicely.

It is admittedly a bit fiddly to put together all the filling ingredients but once that’s done, the fun is in everyone helping themselves and rolling their own. Hmmmm. Have I just said what I said?

vietnamese summer rolls


INGREDIENTS

  • Makes 8 rolls
  • 150g pork belly
  • salt
  • Chinese five spices
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 100g cooked frozen medium prawns
  • ½ block (50g) of glass noodles (rice vermicelli)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned or sliced into matchsticks
  • ½ cucumber, deseeded and julienned or sliced into matchsticks
  • 2-3 tbsp. pickled ginger
  • a few sprigs of mint
  • a few sprigs of coriander
  • a few sprigs of Thai basil
  • Chinese chives, or a few ordinary chives
  • a few lettuce leaves, shredded, plus a few more to cover the rolls before serving
  • 4 tbsp. salted cashews, roughly chopped
  • 8 rice paper wrappers
  • For the dipping sauce:
  • 1 tbsp. sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated
  • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 bird’s eye chili, finely sliced (optional)
Vietnamese summer rolls ingredients


METHOD

Cook the pork belly early in the day or a day ahead so it can be sliced easily. Place it in a pan of cold water with a teaspoon of salt, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Take it off the heat and cool in the cooking liquid.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Rub the pork with Chinese five spices, a little honey and soy sauce, place on a small baking dish and roast for 45 - 60 minutes. Cool completely, then slice thinly.

Cooked pork bellyDefrost the prawns in the fridge, by placing them in a bowl of ice cold water. Drain and pat dry.

Soak the noodles in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, until tender or al dente, whichever you prefer. Drain and snip with scissors into more manageable lengths.Strip the leaves off the herbs, chop roughly and mix together.

To assemble the rolls, prepare all the ingredients in easy reach together with a board lined with a clean towel and a bowl with warm water to soften the rice wrappers. Dunk a wrapper in the water for a couple of seconds and place it on the board. Add the filling - the order is not crucial but mine was this: crossed chives at the bottom of the wrapper, 4 or 5 prawns in a line, a pinch of carrots and a pinch of cucumbers, some herb mix, a dab of noodles, some slices of pork, a sliver or two of ginger and a line of cashews. Try to keep the filling in a neat line across the bottom of the wrapper.

Wrapping the summer rollsWrap the bottom of the skin quite tightly over the filling, roll upwards once, fold the sides in over it towards the centre. Continue to roll up tightly and place on a plate or board, joint side down. Cover with lettuce leaves until you’ve assembled them all and are ready to serve.

Vietnamese dipping sauceTo make the dipping sauce, mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Add the birds eye chili if you prefer it more spicy.

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