Sunday, 29 August 2010

Goi Cuon in my Lunchbox

It's back to school season, or back to work for the teachers, however you want to look at it. And there are lunch boxes to be packed. No longer can you send in a PB&J sammie, you've got to get creative. Why not some Thai salad rolls? They are cute and portable and really you can sub in just about anything. No peanuts? Use toasted sesame seeds. No meat? Use grilled tofu or eggplant, drizzled with hoisin or sesame oil. The Nam Prik sauce below is pretty fishy, especially if you add the dried shrimp, but you can always sub in for good old soy sauce with a splash of lime and sesame oil. Easy peasy, lime squeezy.

Goi Cuon
Rice Paper Spring Rolls

Mark Bittman, The Best Recipes in the World
online recipe sourced from
makes about 8 large spring rolls

MB - I learned how to make "summer rolls" in a tiny village in the Mekong Delta. I was not only the only non Vietnamese at the table; I was also the only male. My pathetic technique was laughable to my co-workers, but I quickly got the hang of it. So will you.

Rice paper wrappers, sold in Asian markets, keep forever. Their flexibility is truly amazing, and the simple variation will give you an idea of the different directions in which you can go. This is just a basic outline; these rolls can be filled with infinite variations of vegetables, meat, and even fruit, so don't worry if you don't have one or two of the ingredients here. You can cover these with a moist towel or plastic wrap and keep them for about an hour, no longer, before serving.

8 rice paper sheets, 10 or 12 inches in diameter
1/2 pound cooked pork or chicken, cut into thin strips
12 medium shrimp, cooked, peeled, and split in half lengthwise
One 4-ounce bundle dried rice vermicelli, soaked in hot water until softened (about 10 minutes) and drained
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (preferably Thai), roughly chopped
2 scallions, trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces, and sliced lengthwise
2 carrots, grated or shredded
4 red-leaf lettuce leaves, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
Peanut Sauce, Nam Prik, or lime wedges

1. Set up a workstation: lay out a damp kitchen paper towel on the counter and a large bowl of h water (110-120°F, which is about what it measure from most taps). Dip a sheet of the rice paper the hot water, turning once, until soft, about I seconds. Lay it flat on the towel.

2. On the bottom third of the rice paper, spread eighth of each of the remaining ingredients, except the sauce, in a line. Fold in the bottom edge an both sides and then roll tightly into a cylinder. The rice paper will adhere to itself. Repeat this process with the remaining ingredients.

3. Serve with either of the dipping sauces or the lime wedges.

Nam Prik Dipping Sauce

2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp minced hot fresh chile (Thai or jalapeno); cayenne or hot pepper flakes; or to taste
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp finely shredded carrot (optional)
1 tbsp finely minced dried shrimp (optional)

Combine all ingredients, let flavours marry for 1 hour or up to a day in the fridge.