First of all let me say… GONG XI FA CAI!. In layman’s terms… happy chinese new year ya’ll! Now this post isn’t meant to be a chinese new year thang nor is this blog the place to seek out new cny recipes because *gasp*, I’ve pretty much looked past the coming holiday (shameless blog plug, check out last year’s offerings hehe). While everybody else was buzzing around me about what to cook, organising family gatherings and manically cleaning their house, I went on my everyday life and totally forgotten about it.
My family isn’t very traditional with the Chinese stuff having totally grown up in UK and Australia. Oh sure, we get together to eat with relos once in a blue moon but in the end, we’re all pretty blasé about it. All those holiday traditions and superstitions have no big bearing on our Australiana household.
Not sure what all that blathering had to do with rice paper rolls but anyhoo! While I’m totally ambiguous to holidays, I’m all for embracing Asian food. I want to know it all. From learning the ins and out of a Malaysian kitchen to opening myself up to other Asian cuisines. Strangely I’m now enamoured with rice paper. Seriously fun to play with, kinda like funky cardboard. But of course this ingredient is essential in the Vietnamese staple, rice paper rolls.
I was never fond of rice paper rolls. All those nutritional vege fillings, the lack of meat and fat and the burst of fresh coriander and mint was about as exciting as, oh, eating grass from my yard. But now bad habits are dying and suddenly the term ‘healthy-ish’ (trust me, it’s a real word) doesn’t seem so terrifying. For one thing, I don’t violently repulse at the sight of carrots and exploding fresh herbs in my mouth is now deemed G-rated fun.
One thing that I hate with making rice paper rolls? Rolling. I seem to be physically incapable of neatly tucking, folding and rolling anything into a neat little parcel. My failed ‘practice’ rolls were a sad looking bunch – torn skins, loose billowy sausages, saggy ends… I only started getting the hang of it after The Mother stepped in to assist. Skilled hands I have none.
But assembling issues aside, these make for an awesome bite to eat. And you could use anything you want to fill these babies with. For these ones, I filled them with whatever I had in my fridge – Chinese sausage, fresh mint leaves, julienned carrot and omelette, lettuce, dried shrimp, garlic and kohlrabi (which is like a funky purple or green turnip radishy thingy). Whatever you fill them with, a dipping sauce is a must, especially if it’s of a hoisin and chilli persuasion.
One last tip – don’t overfill your roll. As a wise man once said, nobody likes a burst sausage.
Rice Paper Rolls (Lap Cheong, Carrot and Kohlrabi) with Hoisin Dipping Sauce
Makes approx. 12 rolls using 20-22cm round rice paper
2-3 Chinese sausages (lap cheong)
1 kohlrabi, peeled and julienned
1 Tbl caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a dash of salt and pepper
40g dried shrimp, processed to fine pieces
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbl of oil
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
Oakleaf lettuce, leaves picked and washed
Mint leaves, washed
Round rice paper rolls (up to 22cm diameter)
Prepare the ingredients for the rolls:
Place chinese sausages in a pot and cover it with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from water, dry and fry in a frypan until browned all over. Set aside to drain and cool. Slice on a diagonal and set aside.
In the same pan, add the julienned kohlrabi and sprinkle the sugar over it. Sauté over medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated and the kohlrabi is lightly golden. Set aside to cool completely.
Heat up a small frypan then pour in the beaten egg mixture in 2 or 3 batches. Cook on one side for a minute then flip to brown the other side. You should have about 2 or 3 thin omelettes. Set aside to cool, then julienne the omelettes.
Heat up the oil in a small pan and sauté the garlic until light and golden. Add the processed dried shrimp and fry until golden. Drain well and set aside to cool.
To assemble the rolls (slamming picture guide at the bottom)
Set up a bowl of cold water. Cut 6 sheets in half. These will be laid on top of whole sheets for extra strength and thickness.
Dip a whole rice paper sheet and one semi-circle sheet in cold water unti slightly softened. Lay the whole sheet out flat then place a semi-circle sheet on top of the whole sheet horizontally on the bottom half.
Lay out 2-3 whole mint leaves on the rice paper in a line about 2 – 2.5cm from the bottom. Place 3 chinese sausage pieces on top of the mint leaves. Top that with omelette, carrot, kohlrabi, a sprinkle of the sautéed dried shrimp then some lettuce leaf.
From the bottom up, roll the spring roll making sure it’s tightly tucked in. If you wish you can fold in the sides but make sure that it’s rolled tight. Set aside under a damp paper towel while you assemble the rest (this will prevent it from drying).
Serve immediately with hoisin dipping sauce (recipe below). If you must store them, wrap cover them top and bottom with damp paper towels but ideally, these should be polished off quick smart.
Hoisin Dipping Sauce
125ml of hoisin sauce
60ml of water
squeeze of fresh lime
1 tsp of chilli sauce (optional or to taste)
roasted crushed peanuts
red chilli, deseeeded and sliced
In a saucepan over low heat, whisk together the hoisin sauce, water, fresh lime juice and chilli sauce until warmed through and combined. Leave to cool completely.
Garnish with chopped peanuts and chilli and serve with rice paper rolls. Store in refrigerator in a clean jar.
Ok folks, I know that reading instructions is one thing but seeing some awesome visuals is so much better. If my words sounds like hogwash to you then maybe these slamming photos will guide you (however crappy they are). All hail my supreme blogging skills of balancing a chunky camera with rolling (as well as my green chopping board). And yes, in some of these photos, I do have a third hand. He’s very lovely.
Lay a rice paper half over a whole sheet horizontally on the bottom half
On goes the mint leaves…
Followed by the good stuff (i.e. sausage and egg)
More good stuff…
Cap off with the lettuce. Ready to get rolling?
‘Tuck’ in the filling as you start rolling…
…so you end up with this. From here, fold over the sides, keeping the filling tucked neatly.
Roll roll roll!