Thursday, July 20, 2006

Summer Rolls

The cool flush of fresh mint. Deliciously cold and thin rice noodles softly fold away from the bite. A deeper tone of sea and slight salt sounds in the flavor of steamed shrimp as the juicy meat unfolds from the tightly filled rice crepe. Crisp lettuce crunches before a last pull on the moist white wrapper finishes the first bite of summer roll. Oh they’re good. Dam da (duhm dahh) (translation: deeply flavored good food). And perfect for the hot days and humid nights of July and August.
Vietnamese summer rolls, or goi cuon, are best eaten with two dipping sauces. The earthy brown and sweet peanut sauce, nuoc leo, and nuoc cham, the savory, salty fish sauce with shredded carrot that is ever present on the Vietnamese table. I like to dip in the nuoc cham first and then double dip into the nuoc leo. The cham enhances the nuoc leo left in its dish – but not so much the other way around.

Although the People’s Campaign for a Vietnamese Restaurant in Westchester (PCVRW!) continues, there are none here yet. Deep sigh. But they do make a nice version of gui cuon at the Hay Day Market/Balducci’s sushi counter in Scarsdale (15 Palmer Avenue at the Four Corners - 914-722-0200). The rice paper is moist and tender, the shrimp are fresh and cooked just enough and the sauce is good – if a bit sweet. They also sell some summer rolls pre-made at Whole Foods, but to my taste, well, if you can make it to Scarsdale, do it. Or better yet make some at home.

Summer rolls are fairly easy to make. The recipe is simple (and one is below) – but the trick is all in the technique. I’ll let the experts teach this one. Check out the excellent primer on using Vietnamese rice paper wrappers at the Vietworld Kitchen.

All the ingredients can be had right round the Burbs at Kam Sen market in White Plains. 22 Barker Avenue, White Plains (914) 428-4500.



Nuoc Cham
Nuoc Leo

Steamed or grilled shrimp – halved the long way
One package of bahn trang rice paper wrappers
Thin rice noodles – soaked and boiled according to directions and cooled
Lettuce leaves – whole, washed and dried
Fresh mint leaves – washed, dried and leaves separated
A basin of warm water large enough to comfortably fit each rice paper wrapper
Moist clean towels – for preparation surfaces
Cilantro (optional)
Pickled daikon and carrots – julienned (optional)

Take a bahn trang wrapper from the pack. It will be dry and fragile. Soak it in the warm water basin for a few moments. Remove and place on the moist towel.

Put a line of shrimp, colorful side down on the surface near the middle of the wrapper, leaving about an inch on either end of the line of shrimp to the edge of the wrapper.

Cover the shrimp in lettuce leaves. Cover the lettuce leaves in a handful of rice noodles.

Place a few mint leaves over the lettuce. If you like, add some cilantro leaves and pickled vegetables.

Fold the wrapper over and under the pile of ingredients length wise. Tightly pull the wrapper over the filling and fold the edges in. Roll closed – the rice paper wrapper will stick to itself and form a seal. Follow the technique at Vietworld for folding the wrapper correctly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can definitely sympathize with you here. Not only are there no Vietnamese restaurants in the area, but there are also no Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants in Weschester. I can't get any Makan unless I go to Chinatown. :-(