Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

It is hotter than blazes here.  So hot, that I am cooking in spurts.  I'll go a whole week without really having cooked anything worthwhile, and then I'll go crazy for a couple of days, making enchiladas, chicken spaghetti, and these summer rolls.  No, these are not rainy day makings either...we're way behind the rainfall we normally get in a year.  It's finally cooled down a little bit, but I made these a while back when it was just so hot, turning on the stove or oven was the last thing I wanted to do. 

In between praying for rain and cooking spurts, I've been trying to make things for David to take to work.  He started a new job a few weeks ago.  The headquarters for the company is way out in the middle of nowhere, about a 45 minute commute.  The good news is it's a nice, pretty drive down country roads.  The bad news is there are no restaurants of any kind for miles around.  It's not such a bad thing...I'm secretly happy I get to cook for him more often instead of him eating out nearly every day like he was previously.

I made these summer rolls years ago, and it was fun, but really too fussy for my level of patience at the time.  Fast forward about 8 years, 5 kids later, and throw in a fabulous garden...well, it's still fussy, but the kids can occupy themselves, someone is always around to hold the baby, and the herbs I need are conveniently right outside the back door.  Not so bad, right?  Plus, I don't have to heat up the house, and the 2 ingredients that do require the stovetop take mere minutes to cook.

I found everything I needed at my local grocery store.  Hopefully you can as well, and have something cool and refreshing to eat on a hot summer day. 

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

8 rice paper wrappers (look for them in the Asian section of your grocery store)
12 medium shrimp (unpeeled)
4 ounces rice vermicelli noodles (make sure you get rice, not wheat vermicelli)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and julienned
3 scallions, julienned
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1 teaspoon salt
Handful of fresh mint leaves
8 large (or 16 small/medium) fresh basil leaves
Handful of fresh cilantro
8 lettuce leaves (green leaf, Boston, or romaine works fine)

Poach the shrimp briefly in a pot of simmering water for 2-3 minutes...don't overcook them.  As soon as they are pink and opaque, drain and run under cool water.  Cut in half lengthwise, and set aside.

Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions.  It should only take 3-4 minutes.  Drain and set aside to cool.

Toss the cucumber and scallions with the salt to help them soften slightly, but still retain some crispness.  Set aside for a few minutes. 

Have all the herbs washed, spun dry in a salad spinner (or patted dry with paper towels) and ready to go.  I was lucky to have some nice mint and basil from the garden.  Alas, my cilantro had already gone to seed. 
Leave the lettuce leaves whole if they are smaller, larger ones can be simply torn in half.  They should also be washed and dried.  

Soak a rice paper wrapper in water for about 20 seconds.  Lay out on a work surface covered with a clean kitchen towel.  The towel will absorb any excess water. 

Lay 3 shrimp halves across the middle of the wrapper.  Top with the noodles, cumcumber and onion mixture, carrots, cilantro, mint, and basil.  Place on lettuce leaf over everything.

Fold the bottom half of the wrapper carefully over the filling.  Don't worry...it feels delicate, but it's quite strong.  Fold in the sides, and then roll into a tight bundle. 

You can cut them in half on the diagonal to serve 'em if you want to be fancy. :-).  David doesn't go for looks when he's eating, he just opens his mouth, lol.  Serve with some peanut sauce on the side (you can find that in the Asian section of the store too). 

I doubled this recipe and made about 18 rolls (it just depends how much filling you put in).  They are best the day you make them, but will keep for one day in the fridge, in a lightly covered container, with a paper towel at the bottom to absorb any excess moisture and additional paper towels in between the layers. 

I'm not going to lie.  It took me a good part of the day to make these.  I prepped the vegetables, herbs, and shrimp in the morning, and cooked the noodles and assembled the rolls in the afternoon.  They may take some work, but it's worth it, trust me.  They are WAY better than anything store-bought.  You know you've always wanted to make these, right?  Don't be scared...you can do it!  Just remember I have to manhandle 4 kids and nurse a baby too. ;-)  It probably won't take as long for you. 

Stay cool everyone, and I hope you make these summer rolls while you're trying to beat the heat! 

 God bless your table tonight! 

1 comment:

Jen said...

Thanks, Kim! We made out just fine with the hurricane, but others in New England weren't as fortunate. This summer alone, we had a tornado, an earthquake, and the hurricane...can hardly wait to see what the winter has in store for us.

These rolls looks amazing - will definitely try them, maybe this weekend.

Happy cooking (and eating!).

p.s. I have a great "day 2" recipe to follow up the enchilada recipe...be on the look out for it!