Monday, March 8, 2010

Vietnamese Inspiration - Spring Rolls

Today's recipe was inspired by some of the delicious spring rolls that I ate in Vietnam. The fillings tend to be fresher and lighter than other more Chinese influenced spring rolls I have eaten. They are a real crowd pleaser dish for a cocktail party or make a nice starter for a dinner party and are very easy to make. I made a big batch and put a whole lot of uncooked ones in the freezer for later - just defrost, deep fry and serve. You can be as creative as you like with the fillings - when I was away I ate spring rolls made with minced pork, chicken and prawns as well as vegetarian versions that used mung beans.

Our beloved "pork lady" (see previous post) used to put mung beans and pork in hers. She would make then earlier in the day and then grill them over the coals to reheat them, which gave them a whole new dimension of flavour. My recipe uses minced pork, fresh herbs, rice vermicelli noodles and black fungus (don't get freaked by the whole "fungus" thing - it is just a variety of dried mushroom that you can purchase easily from any asian supermarket) The fungus is quite mild and gives a lovely texture to the rolls, as well as gorgeous ebony coloured flecks through the mixture. I made these rolls on Saturday night and served them simply with some soy and sweet chilli sauce, but feel free to make your own dipping sauce if that takes your fancy. This recipe makes about 50 small rolls.

Serving suggestions:
- In Vietnam, fried spring rolls are often wrapped in lettuce and then dunked in chilli or a dipping sauce - they are delicious this way, as the crunchy fresh lettuce is a great contrast to the fried roll. I must admit that this is my preferred mode of eating spring rolls now.
- Another serving option is to cut the rolls into pieces (the Vietnamese just use scissors for this that they keep on the table) and use them to top cold noodle salads or pickled vegetables.

Spring roll handy hints:
- Dont overstuff your spring rolls or they are likely to burst open when you cook them.
- Make sure your filling mixture is not too wet - it can make your spring roll pastry weaken and split.
- Make sure your filling is cool or cold before creating your rolls - using hot filling can also split the wrappers. I sometimes make the filling the day before to avoid this.

Pork and black fungus spring rolls

You will need:
(for the filling) 400g pork mince, 1/2 cup dried black fungus soaked in hot water until soft, drained and chopped finely (available from asian grocers. You can also use dried Shitake mushrooms if you like),
1 bunch finely chopped fresh coriander, 1 finely chopped red chilli, 1 cup soft vermicelli rice noodles (I just soak the dried ones in hot water for 10mins and then drain them), 3 tablespoons oyster sauce, 1/2 cup finely chopped spring onions, pepper to taste, 3 teaspoons sesame oil, splash of peanut or vegetable oil.

(for the rolls)
1 pack spring roll wrappers - you can buy these from an asian grocer and some supermarkets. I like the smaller sized ones (about 14cm x 14cm), but if you want larger rolls, then go for the bigger sized wrappers.
Oil for frying, 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water whisked together.

Method: Heat a splash of oil in a pan and cook the pork mince until browned. Add the spring onion, chilli, noodles, fungus, sesame oil and oyster sauce. Combine well and season with pepper. Finally mix in the coriander. Allow the mixture to cool before making the rolls.

To make the rolls: Place the spring roll sheet diagonally, with a pointy end towards you. Brush the edges with the egg mixture. Place a small spoonful of the mixture on the pastry and fold the corner over the mixture. Now fold each side in. Now roll the pastry away from you - voila! One spring roll! Repeat with remaining mixture.

Cook the finished rolls in hot vegetable oil until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with sweet chilli sauce or soy.


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