Sunday, 28 November 2010

Experimental Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Vietnamese Spring Roll
After re-cooking the Cambodian Aubergine Curry and Stir Fried Spinach with Nuoc Cham for friends on Friday night we'd got the taste for Oriental food again. We'd managed to source some Shrimp paste for the curry, as in the original recipe, but were not able to include it this time because of allergies, so this also fueled the inspiration for all things oriental.
We took a drive into Manchester and to Wing Yip so I could see the delights available - Tim was the one who'd been there for the Shrimp Paste.
It really was like an Aladdin's Cave. The shelves were full of everything you could possibly need to create a Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese etc etc dish, and even though I wanted to read every label of each exciting sauce and condiment we had to focus! We picked up a couple of different Malaysian curry pastes and concentrates which were wheat free to try, some exciting Shrimp Chilli, some rice sticks, (which seem to be noodles, but there were also rice noodles, hmmm?) some Prawns and the main thing we were after, some spring roll wrappers.

Vietnamese Spring Roll Wrappers
Vietnamese spring roll wrappers are different to Chinese it seems as they are rice, as opposed to wheat. They can be used for Vietnamese fresh rolls, or summer rolls, and also deep fried to create the crispy, crunchy spring rolls we normally first think of.

We'd got some pre-packed (I know, I know!) vegetable stir fry and together with the prawns we thought that would make a decent filling. Plus the veg was half eaten and needed finishing off. We'd also got quite a bit of Nuoc Cham left from Friday so we used this to season the mixture. We decided on the deep-fried version rather that fresh as one of the core flavours for fresh rolls is mint and coriander, and rather than go shopping again we decided to use what was in the fridge.

We cooked through the veg and added the Nuoc Cham and Prawns at the last minute to heat through. We then, as per the pack instructions, soaked the spring roll wrapper in warm water for about 5 seconds until pliable. A spoonful of the stir fry mixture was then placed on the wrapper - once we'd managed to spread it out ready to roll, and perhaps not in the neatest of ways, rolled it all up.

Spring Rolls ready to go.
We heated some sunflower oil in the wok and chucked them in. First mistake. They all joined together, stuck to the bottom, burst, and pretty much mangled themselves into one big lump of rice paper and small floating bits of now deep fried veg. We did not take a picture!
After looking up a recipe for Vietnamese Spring Rolls in Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey we saw where things had gone wrong. He specifies the temperature of the oil - not much use to us without a cooking thermometer, but also says to cook them so they do not touch. If we'd read that first we wouldn't have had to sacrifice the first 4 rolls. Actually we didn't really sacrifice them, as we did eat them! So we cooked the remainder very carefully. The higher temperature of the oil ensured that they didn't stick, plus we'd double wrapped a couple so as we turned them over the fragile rice wrapper didn't burst on us.
These were rather more successful.

The wrappers crisped up nicely and the Nuoc Cham dipping sauce added extra salty and hot seasoning. Lovely. The next couple we made we didn't pre-cook the filling - the prawns were cooked already, and they tasted just as good. Next time we get the Spring roll wrappers out I think we will try a recipe similar to the one in the Rick Stein book which includes minced pork as well as chopped prawns with veg and rice noodles. And also try the different option with the wrappers of the Fresh Rolls. Although we may need to practice the rolling up stage to perfect the look for Fresh Rolls really.

We will keep going back to Wing Yip for all our Oriental ingredients as everything seemed so cheap, not to mention exciting and inspirational. They also have an online store, but at first glance they don't seem to carry the full range of goods as the actual shops. Fresh produce was also notably cheap, their chillis, coriander, galangal etc all much cheaper than our normal supermarkets. The range of ingredients available will, no doubt, prompt us to being slightly more adventurous with our cooking, but I think we're a while off buying some frozen durian and some tinned abalone!

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