When the weather turns warm and summery, all I crave is fresh fruits and vegetables, which can be a bit of a challenge living in the arctic! It's even better when I don't have to cook them, but that means finding the freshest produce possible - again, it can be challenging when all of our food gets flown in. Warmer months aren't as sparse as the winter months for freshness, but you still need to keep an eye out on the things you buy...I swear, certain things like strawberries, look perfectly fine in the store and 10 minutes after I get them home they start to go bad. It's a strange phenomenon that's part of the northern charm.
Vietnamese fresh rolls are the perfect meal because they're interactive, quick to make and customized however you like them. I usually explain them as the Vietnamese version of fajitas since I put out all the "toppings" on the table and we just make our own rolls however we like. Just use whatever ingredients are in the fridge at the time - the more vegetables, the better! I didn't have a lot of produce in our fridge because I hadn't gone shopping for the week yet, but I pulled out what we had and we still had a lovely meal. Paired with a white wine spritzer and it was so light, fresh and crisp you wouldn't have guessed we were in an arctic tundra.
On this particular night I had some steak strips and surimi shrimp - an imitation shrimp made primarily from fish. (it was a new item at the Northern and they were cheap so I thought I'd give them a try. They weren't bad for $5 for a big bag, but I started calling them "scrimps" because we were "scrimping and saving" by eating them...come on, that's funny!!). They were okay, but real shrimp would be much better in these. Paired with the steak, they sort of turned our meal into surf and turf rolls. Any protein will work for these rolls; we've also had chicken, fish, tofu, pork...or just make them vegetarian rolls and don't even worry about the protein. Lots of fresh vegetables are the key to the texture and flavour, though, so don't be afraid to load them up with whatever produce you've got laying around. They're that versatile! It's all delicious after you wrap them up and dip them into the amazing sauce!
Vietnamese Fresh Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
makes enough for 8 rolls
8 rice paper wrappers
4 romaine lettuce leaves, halved
1/4 package vermicelli noodles
1 field cucumber, julienned
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
3 spring onion sprigs, trimmed into same size strips as carrots & cucumber
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
cooked protein (if using)
fresh mint leaves
For the dipping sauce:
makes approx. 1/2 C
1/3 C hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 Tbsp hot water
chili sauce, to taste
peanuts, shelled (for garnish)
1. Cook vermicelli according to package directions. Drain and set aside to cool once cooked.
2. Prep all the vegetables - try to cut them all into the same length and thickness.
3. To make the dipping sauce: mix all the ingredients together until combined. If it is too thick, add more hot water a half teaspoon at a time - you don't want it to be too runny, but it should be the consistency of a thick salad dressing. Garnish with peanuts and set aside.
4. To prep the rice paper: in a bowl of warm water, dip each rice paper for about 5 seconds, just so it is wet (do not over-soak/drown the rice paper or it will become too soft!). Once dipped, place on a plate or rolling area and allow to soften (about a minute).
5. To wrap the roll:
With softened rice paper in front of you, lay lettuce in a line about an inch from the bottom. (The lettuce helps as extra support for your fillings in case your paper rips.) Add the rest of the ingredients: vermicelli, meat, other vegetables and fold bottom of rice paper up and tuck under the fillings.
Start rolling about half way and fold in the ends, then continue rolling until the rice paper is sealed.
6. Dip into hoisin peanut sauce and repeat! Yum!