OK. They may not look like much to you, but these are my very first Vietnamese Salad Rolls, one of my favorite eats in the whole world.
And I am giving myself a BIG WOOO HOO for doing them.
You all think I am much braver and more experimental than I really am. I have loved these for probably 15 years, but on my own I could never figure out how to make them, and I really didn’t want to try. I told myself I couldn’t get all the ingredients, anyway.
“Oh yes!” said my French friend, mistress of the kitchen, nothing she couldn’t do, and she invited us for dinner and the first course was Vietnamese Salad Rolls, made in her own kitchen. “They have the rice wrappers at all the Phillipino stores in Kuwait.”
Who knew? My French friend knew ALL these little secrets.
She carefully explained how to make them, but my mind shut down when she said “There is one part that is a little tricky – the rice wrapper has to soak for ONE SECOND in a pan of hot water, but only one second!” To me, that sounded very scary and daunting.
Then she gave me two packages of the wrappers.
I took them out now and then and read the instructions and put them back in the cupboard. I even shipped them from Kuwait to Doha with me. I read detailed instructions on the internet. I printed some out.
Yesterday, I found more wrappers at the MegaMart and bought two packages and now, with plenty of back up and with an unanticipated energy and hopefulness, I thought “why not give it a try tonight?”
The secret to making these is to have everything ready in advance – a bowl of cooked shrimp, sliced in half down the spine (so both halves look like a shrimp), a bowl of basil leaves, a bowl of mint leaves, a bowl of chopped parsley, a bowl of thinly sliced lettuce, a bowl of julienned carrots, a package of the rice wrappers, the cooked vermicelli in a strainer (it stays flexible because these go together fairly fast) and a flat round pan of hot water to soften the rice wrappers.
Once you have the ingredients assembled, the assembly – which for some reason was the part that daunted me – goes fairly easily and rapidly. If you soak the thin, brittle wrapper for exactly one and a half seconds, and lay it on a cutting board, it becomes very flexible and exactly the right texture. I started 3 inches from the top with the shrimp, then lay the rest of the ingredients in a row vertically, but almost on top of each other. Then I pulled the bottom up over the ingredients and tucked it in – not too tightly, but very snugly, folded in the sides, then wrapped the top over the already-rolled up section, and wow – a salad roll!
Vietnamese Salad Rolls
• 2 ounces rice vermicelli
• 8 rice wrappers (8.5 inch diameter)
• 8 large cooked shrimp – peeled, deveined and cut in half
• 1 1/3 tablespoons chopped fresh Thai basil
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
• 2 leaves lettuce, chopped
• 4 teaspoons fish sauce
• 1/4 cup water
• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 2 tablespoons white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon garlic chili sauce
• 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
• 1 teaspoon finely chopped peanuts
1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Boil rice vermicelli 3 to 5 minutes, or until al dente, and drain.
2. Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip one wrapper into the hot water for 1 second to soften. Lay wrapper flat. In a row across the center, place 2 shrimp halves, a handful of vermicelli, basil, mint, cilantro and lettuce, leaving about 2 inches uncovered on each side. Fold uncovered sides inward, then tightly roll the wrapper, beginning at the end with the lettuce. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
3. In a small bowl, mix the fish sauce, water, lime juice, garlic, sugar and chili sauce.
4. In another small bowl, mix the hoisin sauce and peanuts.
5. Serve rolled spring rolls with the fish sauce and hoisin sauce mixtures.
• The fish sauce, rice vermicelli, chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce and rice wrappers can be found at Asian food markets.
These are so fresh-tasting and light, perfect for a hot summer evening, perfect for a special Ramadan breaking-the-fast appetizer. Once the rolls are made, seal them on a plate under a couple layers of saran-type wrap to keep the wrappers from drying out. You can make them a couple hours in advance and wrap them good and store them in the refrigerator; they keep well for a couple hours. Don’t make more than you can eat the same day; they don’t keep well overnight.
The recipe above uses a different sauce than we use. The Vietnamese in France use this sauce, which is more of a vinaigrette, but the Vietnamese in Seattle and in St. Petersburg, Florida, use a peanut sauce:
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbs Thai sweet chili sauce (sometimes called chili pepper sauce for chicken) it is that thick, sticky sweet orange-y red sauce with pepper flakes in it)
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tsp finely chopped ginger
1 Tbs tahina
Cook one minute in microwave and stir until all the peanut butter is dissolved. Then add liquid – can be water or orange juice or pomegranate juice or chicken broth or sake (!) to thin to a thick salad dressing consistency.
AdventureMan was so amazed and delighted when he came home and saw I had been able to make these all by myself! I am so amazed and delighted that I can do it! Wooo HOOOOOOO! We didn’t eat them as an appetizer; we like them so much, we ate them as the main course, with some finger-food veggies – snow peas and carrots – as side dishes.
Have you heard of TrendCentral.com, another website that keeps track of the most ephemeral of the ephemeral – what is happening now and what might be coming down the pipeline?
Here is an article from TrendCentral.com on new vocabulary, for those who want to understand what the next gen is saying:
WE BE SLANGIN’
Decoding the latest Gen Y vocab
Did you know the word “hipster” didn’t always mean someone who laced every sentence with snark and pretended not to know other people’s names? Yeah, at one time “hipster” was used to describe beatniks that listened to jazz in the “wrong” side of town and took speed-induced road trips across America. As pop culture evolves, so does the slang we use to describe the world around us. Here are a few new words and terms we have been hearing around the block and on the web:
n. This phrase is used to highlight that whatever is being said is the actual truth and not the rose-colored variety. One of the most famous users of this expression is vlogger Mr. Chi-City, who tends to drop the phrase every few seconds.
“Real talk, I was so hungover, I slept next to the toilet, real talk.”
v. Checking your social networking pages while on the job.
“I got caught Facebook stalking by my boss today. I hope he doesn’t get mad I was social notworking.”
n. A person who dresses like a hybrid of a gypsy and a hipster.
“There were hoards of gypsters at that Fleet Foxes concert afterparty in Echo Park last night.”
n. A tunic or shirt that is scandalously worn as a dress; the term has come into use because of the trend of girls leaving the house without a vital component – their pants. (And we’re not talking about mistaking leggings for pants; we mean the bare-legged girls that seem to be just wearing an oversized men’s shirt.)
“Can you believe she wore a shress to school? She looked like she just came from a slumber party.”
n. A word used to describe just how epic (i.e. awesome) something is.
“Did you see Tony jump out of the tree into the swimming pool? It was totally stupid but I gotta say the epicocity level was 10.”
abbr. This strictly means “down to” and originated in the land of texting. Like other phrases that begin at the thumbs of teenage girls, DT has migrated into actual verbal conversations.
“Do you want to go shopping tomorrow?” “DTGS”
n. A term used to describe a member of the opposite sex.
“See them berries sipping on martinis? They look ripe for a picking.”
Total LOL at Social Notworking!
There are a lot of factors in blogging that I don’t control. I have no control over the policies of the countries I live in. I have no control over who might like my posts and tell their friends. And I have no control over what posts might tickle interest among blog readers.
Kuwait has a lively, active blogging community, even in the face of competition from FaceBook and Twitter. Many bloggers have gone inactive, working in new areas, and have come back to blogging. Leaving Kuwait, moving to Doha, I lost about 300 – 500 regular viewers per day. I know, I know, some of you found the sunrise-over-the-Gulf daily photos SO so boring, but there were Kuwaitis all over the world who checked in just to see what Kuwait looked like each day, and having been in their position (I still check Seattle every day, and Pensacola) I know how they feel.
Some posts I consider “filler.” Maybe I can’t think of anything to say, so I share a piece of news that interests me. Or I ask a question. Posts I just tapped off and posted without giving it a lot of thought then take off, and over the months and years maintain a steady popularity. The posts I like the best are posts where my readers have stepped in, commented and we’ve all learned more about something.
At Halloween, I had my all time high stat bump – on an article I had written two years earlier. Last night, I watched the numbers climb irrationally on a news article on the Perseids – and oh, by the way, even though last night was the peak, they are still out there, and if you can find a quiet, light free spot, you are in for a thrill. I remember one year, AdventureMan and I headed for Clearwater Beach, and it was like Spring Break except it was dark, what a hoot! Everyone had blankets or beach loungers, laying out flat, looking up at the sky – with all their clothes on! It was night!
This is what I could see this morning:
Ah well, coming up are Friday and Saturday, the two worst-stat days of the week. Some days I don’t even bother blogging on Saturday!
Have you ever had an irrational stat bump? Did anyone in Kuwait or Doha go out last night to watch the Perseids? Any luck?