I'm so excited to have another guest blogger post, this time from my friend Tara. Tara and I met while working together at Anthousa and have been friends ever since. We hit it off realizing we shared so many of the same interests and can always share a good laugh. I credit her for first introducing me to the farmers markets which clearly was life changing for me. She is so well traveled and knowledgeable on everything from naturopathic medicine, nutrition, yoga, sewing, childbirth (she studied midwifery) and more. She is also a great influence for not taking life too seriously and always having a good time.
Whenever we get together, the conversation inevitably turns to food. This is a recipe she's mentioned before that I'm dying to try. (Thanks Tara!)
My nine year old daughter has always had an interesting palate. As an infant I couldn't get a single bite of baby food past her lips, yet she quickly developed a taste for curry, ate salsa as soup, and the amount of raw fish and tabiko she can put down at a sushi restaurant would shock any mother. Over the last few years she has developed a love for cooking. If any of you have worked with kids in the kitchen, I'm sure you can relate when I say there is no bigger test of patients in motherhood. I cringe when the flour goes flying or eggs fall to the floor while I'm climbing up a ladder to get the noodles off the walls that she has flung up there to test for doneness. As difficult as it can be right now, I feel it's important to cultivate this new hobby. I've learned over the last few years that the more I allow her to help in the kitchen, the more likely she is to try new foods, and it gives me a opportunity to talk about the importance of making healthy choices without completely annoying her. Lately, one of our favorite things to make together is Vietnamese salad rolls. These rolls may seem intimidating to make at home as they use ingredients that most of us are not familiar with. And, although I make these with my 9 year old daughter, I can assure you they will rival any appetizer at the most sophisticated dinner party.
I know there are many different types of salad rolls out there and probably quite a few that use more authentic ingredients, but we love the fresh, simple taste of these:
Vietnamese Salad Rolls
1 package of spring roll skins
1 8oz package of bean thread noodles (there are 3 sections of noodles in this package. I only use two of the sections)
1 head of lettuce (I use the upper half or tip of the leaf as the stiffer lower half tends not to roll so well.)
1 cucumber cut in half length wise, seeds removed and julienned, about 4 inches long
3 -4 carrots julienned, same length as cucumber
1 package of extra firm tofu. We sometimes substitute shrimp, sauteed and cut in half lengthwise.
Mint leaves - if you like.
Prepare all the ingredients that you want in the rolls first. "Julienne" the tofu into long skinny squares as seen in the picture. This time I used tofu that came flavored and put it in the rolls cold, but usually I marinate plain tofu in a little soy sauce and fry it for a few minutes in oil.
Boil the bean thread noodles according to the directions, about 4 minutes. Drain the noodles and run them under cold water until they are completely cooled. They won't get too sticky for at least a half hour.
Gather the lettuce, julienned cucumber, carrots, and mint (if you like). Boil about 6 cups of water and pour about half an inch into a shallow, flat pot that is larger than the spring roll skins. I use a pie dish. Set up your rolling station with all of the items you want to put in your rolls and a clean dish towel to roll on. Place one spring roll skin in the bowl of boiled water for about 20 seconds. It will become soft and should feel like an al dente noodle. These are inexpensive, so you might want to buy extra and try it out a few times. You might need to refresh the boiled water as it begins to cool, it should be at about 110 degrees.
Lay the skin down on the towel and stretch the sheet slightly to remove any wrinkles. Line the bottom third of the wet, pliable spring roll skin with the ingredients you have prepared. I start with the top half of a piece of lettuce and layer everything on top of that, unless I'm using shrimp. Then I put the shrimp down first so it will show through the rice paper. Make sure the ingredients are neatly placed in a straight row. Make sure they are not clumped together in the center, but evenly distributed from one end to the other. I use about 2 pieces of each ingredient and about a 1/4 cup of the noodles.
Press down on the ingredients while you fold over both sides of the rice paper. (Pressing down on the ingredients is particularly important because it tightens the roll.) With fingers still pressing down, use your thumb and first finger to fold the bottom edge over the filling and roll into a cylinder about 1-1/2 inches wide by 5 inches long. Finish making all the remaining rolls.
Cut the rolls in half and serve with dipping sauce. If I'm not going to eat these right away, I store them between wet paper towels covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator.
Dipping sauce: Equal parts peanut butter and hoisin sauce thinned to your liking with water - gourmet!