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Monday, 2 January 2012

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls (GF, Vg)

For New Year's eve, I made Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls (GF, Vg). I've never made this before - it looks easy... requires delicate touch and timing (which I sadly lack the skills for).

Like my mother, I never make anything with 'set measurements' and over-cater dramatically. So the following are the ingredients I prepared to use:
  • 5 medium sized Carrots (almost julienne, my knife skills are not that great)
  • 3 Capsicums (almost julienne, ok they were really chunky strips)
  • 1/2 large red / Spanish Onion (almost julienne.)
  • Dried Chinese mushrooms (they look like mini-shitakes, rehydrate with water overnight is best. And julienne if you have the skills.)
  • 6-8 large Prawns (steamed / boiled & peeled)
  • Roast Chicken - breast meat (I torn the strips - you may like to chop/slice them if you wanted to use a knife, it's more cathartic to tear it apart.)
  • Vermicelli (I used green bean vermicelli. It has a more chewy texture and doesn't fall apart if left soaking in water when prepared in advance.)
  • 1 kg Bean sprouts (I didn't use all of this, I barely used 250g on hindsight - but the rest can always be used in soups, noodles, stir-fries or salads.)
  • Snowpea sprouts (I like these for the taste and colour.)
  • 1 pkt Tofu puffs (ok this is not really the brand I used, just a picture to show you what they look like. I googled Tofu puffs and this fellow blogger's photo came up. I'm sure they have a proper name, but what would you call something that's like fried tofu but puffy!)
  • a bunch of Coriander (use leaves and thin stems, large ones cut off and set aside for other uses.)
  • 3 pkts 22cm Vietnames rice paper roll sheets (approx 15 sheets per packet, I used 2 packets - there are cracks/breakages if you're a first timer, so extra is recommended.)
  • miso paste (I used this to add salt flavour to the rolls. Generally, this is additive free. Please check packaging as some may contain gluten or if you use a miso soup base - it may contain bonito - which is made from dried fish!)
I did stir-fry the carrots, mushroom together with a little bit of salt - do in batches if your wok/pan is not big enough. A short 2-3 mins will do, ensure carrots are still "crunchy" and not soft. Do the same with the capsicum and onions and salt. Do not cook this until vegetables are wilted. Take out and spread out to cool - if it's all layered in one bowl the vegetables on the bottom will wilt and more juices will / steam will be condensed to liquid - this will make your rice paper rolls too mushy and reduce the variety in texture. I personally, used a mini hand fan and chopsticks to keep turning and mixing the vegetabls until cool. This is similar to how traditionally you would cool down sushi rice.

Oh, minor side note, I use extra virgin olive oil which is already infused with cloves & Chinese peppercorns, so it provides a little bit more extra flavouring to stir-fry.

How to wrap them up: Google this - it's relatively simple and there are Youtube videos, you can't get it wrong. really I mean it, you can't get it wrong. Only break a few in the practice attempts. And it takes a few trials until you find the ideal colour combination placement (Hint: don't lump it all in the middle). I spread a little bit of the miso paste on to the rice paper sheets to add flavour.

For the dressing:
Since I'm trying for something Gluten Free and Vegan, most pre-made Asian sauces are out of the picture. And most recipes contain Fish Sauce or Oyster Sauce or Hoisin Sauce (which is Seafood sauce, shrimp base used in some of these pre-bottled ones). Most recommended replacement for fish sauce is soy sauce (which is not GF).

However, I found a pre-made Thai Salad Dressing that tastes very similar to the Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham). Base ingredients, rice vineagre, water, sugar, chilli, lemon juice and some coriander.

For those who want a quick and easy sauce, and don't need to be concerned about GF. Use Seafood Soy Sauce - it doesn't actually contain seafood or shrimp, it's a special premium soy sauce which is a little bit sweeter than premium light soy and colour is a bit lighter too. Infuse with some chopped chilli, a little rice vineager and you're good to go.

If you are not catering for Vegans, you can use the above link or just add fish sauce to normal soy for flavouring. You can also cheat with - mixture of Hoisin Sauce with some crunchy peanut butter for a non-spicy sauce.

The following links are interesting guides to food additives - especially in pre-bottled sauces.
Wikipedia - Food Additive basic definition and some grounding knowledge.
Food Additives Guide this guide is mostly emulsifiers, stabilisers etc. This is a non-government website, please use and cross-reference responsibly. They also have other guides for acids and other additives in foods.
Latest news on Emulsifiers, Stabilisers, Hydrocolloids Food Navigator provides collation of articles which relate to the food industry and scientific / consumer market impacts on this area's development.

Serves: 28 - 32 large rolls (trial and error means you might have less presentable ones and get to eat a few failed / broken attemps.) Cut in half, can cater for at least a party of 16 people as h'ors d'oeuvres.

Taste test: 4 out of 5 Stars (why? because I'm a critic - the presentation didn't work out as well as I had hoped. The sizes weren't very uniform and cutting was a problem after being left for a while.) 

Pictures: unavailable (I forgot to take but I'll make a new batch another time and update this entry.)

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