I’ve been playing with rice paper rolls recently. They’re great for a light summer lunch, or even a snack. And the ingredients are pretty easy to come by — as long as you can get the rice paper. You need the asian-style rice paper, not the one you might use for baking. It generally comes in round sheets and is much thicker and initially stiffer than the other sort of rice paper. (I use the other sort for making nougat.)
I first made my own rice paper rolls in a Vietnames restaurant (Quan 88) many years ago, with a dish they called “sliced fish.” It was sliced raw fish, cured in lime juice (or something similar) and dusted lightly with spices. As well there was shredded lettuce or maybe bean shoots, and sliced apple. It was a magic combination — I would never have thought of putting apple with raw fish.
We were given bowls of hot water, sheets of rice paper and shown how to dip the rice paper in the hot water, add the ingredients and roll them up. We weren’t very skilled at the rolling, so it was messy but delicious and I’ve been trying to find the exact way they did the fish ever since. Sadly, they no longer have it on their menu.
But ever since, I’ve been making my own rice paper rolls — just every now and then when the impulse strikes. I’m still not very good at rolling them. You can see how to make them here. Next time I’ll get the right sort of lettuce and that might help. But this is what I did today for lunch.
My basic ingredients today were; strips of cooked egg, thinly sliced chicken, grated carrot, shredded red cabbage, slivers of cucumber and celery, cold cooked soba noodles, bean sprouts and herbs — coriander (cilantro) and basil. (what you see in the pic is what was left after I’d made three rolls.)
Yesterday I made them with prawns, carrot, celery, shredded lettuce, bean sprouts, soba noodles, coriander (cilantro), basil, and mint. And thin slivers of chili. Basically, you can use what you have in the fridge. Traditionally rice noodles are used, but I find them a bit tasteless so I used soba noodles — I like them better.
You simply dip a sheet of rice paper in hot water for a few seconds, it softens more after you take it out so really I just wet it and pop it on a plate, slightly smaller than the rice paper round, which made it easier to find the edges when it came to rolling. Then you add your other ingredients, and roll it up. There’s a quick little video here that shows you the best technique. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1553722194661677
And they’re so fresh and healthy and yummy. I didn’t bother with making any dipping sauces just for my lunch, though I would if I were serving these to guests or taking them to a picnic. I just tipped blobs of chili sauce, wasabi (Japanese horseradish) and ordinary mayo on a dish and added them per bite as the whim took me.