Monday, January 9, 2012

Spring Rolls

Spring rolls
These are modeled after the ones I used to eat in New Orleans.  I have made them dozens and dozens of times.  They are great in the summer when it’s too hot to eat heavy food.
  Prepare a savory ingredient.  If you are vegetarian, I recommend tofu fried in thin strips with basil and a bit of light soy sauce.  If you want seafood, I recommend cleaned and veined shrimp boiled to tender and cut in half longways.  I have also doe these rolls with strips of chicken meat and also pork.  Especially if you are eating pork or chicken, make sure not to use too much, since these have a light and cool taste and stuffing them like burritos would overwhelm the other flavors.
   Prepare either rice stick noodles or bean thread.  The important thing is that you don’t overcook and that you use a mild white vermicelli, not thick or heavy noodles.  Cool the noodles off after cooking.
  Use a broad pan full of hot water (the hottest tap water is usually hot enough) to soften a rice paper wrapper.  These can be bought at any Asian market, most well-stocked grocery stores.  I like the square ones best, but round is okay.  Lay out the wrapper on a surface with a corner toward yourself.  Put a bit of noodle about the thickness of two fingers near the corner closest to you. Add a bit of your savory ingredient. Put in one or two big  leaves of  Thai Basil, the kind that has a slightly anis-y taste.  Or any basil you like.  I’m just saying.  Add a few shredded carrot strips, maybe a snow pea.  Fold the corner nearest you over the filling, then take the right and left corners and cross them over one another, making a long sleeve with the lump of filling near you and a pointed end pointing directly away from you. Roll without tearing the wrapper.  It might take a few times to get it right.  Eat your mistakes.
  Serve with a Thai Peanut Sauce, a plum sauce or plain light soy sauce.  Or Sriracha sauce, if that’s how you roll.

Chile fruit sauce:
   I usually make some version of this when I make spring rolls. Take a chile ancho, remove the stem and seeds, and let soak in warm water.  Meanwhile,  cut up several types of seasonal fruit, about three cups total.  I generally use apples, plums, peaches, other tree fruits.  Nothing super sweet or overpowering in taste (like berries).  Cut and simmer in just enough water to cover them until they are soft.  I usually peel the apples and peaches and leave the skins of plums.  The plums add a perfumey quality that I really like.
  Stem and seed a jalapeno pepper.  Cut it into tiny pieces.  Drop it and the chile ancho into the fruit mix.  Turn it off and set aside. Wash your hands well to get the volatile oils of the chile off.  Now wash them again, you didn’t get it all the first time.  If you don’t believe me, touch your face with you fingers and wait three minutes.
  Once it has cooled some, carefully take the mix and pour it into your blender.  Remember that the mix is still pretty hot, so make sure the lid is on tightly.  Blend until it is all combined like applesauce (though probably runnier.)  Add ¼ cup of white vinegar to the mix and simmer for 20 minutes adding water when necessary. Serve cold with springrolls.

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