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Vietnamese rice paper rolls are wonderful yummy treats that are a little fiddly to make but well worth the effort. They are a versatile food that can be a main dish or part of a finger food banquet. Found in most Vietnamese restaurants in Australia, called summer rolls in other places around the world. They are a favourite summer treat as there is little actual cooking and are served cold. The beauty of the rice paper rolls is that you can put almost anything in them, they can be eaten with fingers and with a wide range of sauces. I highly recommend them for picnics and outdoor gatherings as limited cutlery and crockery is needed.

I have not listed quantities for the rolls themselves. This is more a 'feel' thing.

Essential ingredients

Fillings

Choose a number from the list.

  • Marinated chicken, pork, beef, tofu. (Any meat really that is good cold)
  • I tend marinade my meats in soy, garlic and brown sugar.
  • Prawns or shrimp

Vegetables: colour, crunch and the edibility in raw or cold state need to taken into account.

Added bonuses – for the more adventurous

Preparation

  • Prepare your meat and tofu well before hand, marinade it over night and cook it before hand as you want it to be cold.
  • First cook a goodly amount of the vermicelli, you most likely won’t need a whole packet unless you are feeding the thousands. Allow it to cool.
  • Whilst waiting for the noodles it is time to get slicing. Drain anything that comes in a tin. All vegetables and meat should be sliced long ways, quite thin almost julienne. The carrot works better grated but this is not gospel.

Construction of the rolls aka the fiddly time consuming bit.

  • Put on music or the telly.
  • Set out a dish filled with warm water big enough to lay the rice paper wraps in.
  • A supply of clean tea towels or paper towel should be available.
  • Place all your ingredients within reach and get cracking.
  • Soften the wrapper in the water, long enough for there to be no noticeable hard bits. Don’t wander off because this does not take long and you will have glue instead of a wrapper if you go mow the lawns. Another hint is that one or two wrappers at time is plenty.
  • Place the wrapper on the towel and begin with a small amount noodles in the middle more to the top of the sheet in line a sausage/cigar type shape. Collect you choice of fillings and lay along side the noodles and add the herb(s). You don't need huge amounts of filling it makes the rolls very difficult to roll and will cause frustration.
  • Fold down the top, the bit furthest away from you. Fold over the side over the top of the noodles and filling making a sort of pocket.
  • If you have got this far without swearing this bit may make you cuss like a sailor. Roll the pocket towards you keeping the right amount of tension on the wrap and filling to produce a tightly wrapped spring roll like rice paper roll. One thing you have to be careful is not to tear the wrapper.
  • Now repeat until you have what your desired amount! (This is way you have music or the telly, especially if you are preparing for a party.)
  • The best way to store the rolls is seam down and under a clean damp tea towel as they have a tendency to dry out.
  • This is a time consuming task, anthropod suggests gather a group together and have a rolling party or a "you want to eat, you roll it" gathering.
  • There is no reason to do anything more with these tasty crunchy treats beside putting them in the fridge, serve within a few hours of preparation.

anthropod says They look very nice cut in half at an angle and one half flat, one leaned against it at an angle so the fillings are visible.

Dipping Sauces

The fun bit in eating rice paper rolls is the dipping sauces. I have fond memories sitting around a formica table in Footscray, Melbourne with a couple of friends an selection of sauces and big pile of rolls.

There are simple sauces, buy the bottle and pour in a bowl:

But for a more authentic feel you can make the two standard sauces. These are by no means are the be all and the end all in recipes for the sauces, there are heaps out on the web.
This is my favourite:

Hoi sin dipping sauce

  • 3 tablespoons hoi sin sauce
  • 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of smooth peanut butter
  • 1 small red chile, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts
  • Possible ingredient 1 teaspoon of sesame oil

Method

Mix all together besides the peanuts.
Decorate with peanuts and maybe a bit of chili

This is a stock standard that you find in most restaurants is varying forms also called nuoc cham:

Dipping Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons of lime juice (or lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons of fish sauce (can be fermented) or Golden mountain sauce
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 1 to 2 small red chilies finely sliced (use or discard the seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or palm sugar

Method

Add liquid and sugar together and stir until sugar dissolved.
Add garlic and chile.

Set your table with dipping sauces in bowls and a plate of Vietnamese rice paper rolls, plates are optional and some thing to drink, maybe a crisp white wine. Add friends or family and enjoy!


If my construction instructions are a little vague try this great site.

Sites trawled through for inspiration
http://www.burkesbackyard.com.au/1997/archives/27/food,_health_and_nutrition/vietnamese_rice_paper_rolls
http://www.woolfit.com/ricepaper.html
http://www.recipezaar.com/50410?path=0FD058

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