Asian salad rolls and lettuce wraps
I am alone at home for the week but that doesn’t keep me away from the kitchen. Sometime in my evolution as a wife and a mother I fell in love with cooking and begun an affair with my kitchen. I was lucky to have a wonderful, warm and comfortable kitchen at Trail’s End (our previous home) where I could acquire culinary skills, express my artistic abilities and develop a style of my own. As in any love affair, you learn about each other first with passionate abundance and then with loving familiarity. Unlike many love affairs though, the passion between my kitchen and I never subsided.
So I am in the kitchen this week, even if I am alone at home. My excuse is that I still need to eat. Today I thought I’d make salad rolls and to make it easy for those of you who don’t want to work with the rice paper, I piled some into lettuce leaves that can be rolled as you eat and served without fuss. If you use small, one bite inner leaves these would make a nice appetizer.
I love the purity of Asian flavours and sometime crave them in a curry, noodle dish or salad rolls. My repertoire is not that large in this cuisine so I tend to make a few things over and over. This means that I can whip up salad rolls in no time or make a lovely vegetable curry dish to serve with steamed coconut rice that we enjoy.
The salad rolls can be served with different sauces. I wanted a light coloured sauce that will not “stain” the pure white rice noodles so didn’t want to use any soy. The sauce I suggest here is made with fish sauce so it’s not vegetarian. You can use peanut sauce or another bottled sauce you like. One I buy is Nuoc Cham from Blue Drago, it has a nice flavour balance, but it’s easy to make your own.
Rice paper or butter lettuce leaves
4 oz rice vermicelli
1 small red pepper, diced small
1 carrot, sliced thinly on a mandoline
2 leaves romaine lettuce, cut into ribbons
A large handful cilantro, roughly chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
4 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, grated on a fine grater
A large pinch of dried hot pepper flakes or 1 finely minced red chili pepper
If you use the butter lettuce leaves separate them, rinse and dry about 6 leaves.
Place rice vermicelli in a deep dish and pour boiling over to cover by a couple of inches. Stir them to separate and when they are soft, which only takes a couple of minutes, drain well.
To make the sauce mix all the sauce ingredients until the sugar dissolves. Add enough hot pepper flakes for your taste.
Add some of the sauce to the noodles, then add remaining ingredients saving a few peanuts and cilantro for garnish.
Add more dressing as necessary but don’t over do it, you can serve the dish with additional sauce on the side.
Fill the lettuce cups with the noodle salad and garnish with peanuts and cilantro.
serve with personal sauce bowls for each serving.
To eat: roll up the lettuce around the filling and enjoy. A little messy, but that’s okay.
If you make these into rice paper rolls, bring water to a boil in a kettle and use the boiling water to fill a wide dish, about an inch or two dip.
Dip the rice paper into the water and let it soften a minute or so.
Remove from hot water and lay on your work surface.
Place some of the salad on the rice paper and bring two opposite ends together toward the center. You don’t want much of the sauce here.
Now pushing the filling together roll the rice paper to form a roll.
Place the prepared rolls on a plate and cover with a damp paper towel.
Serve with the dipping sauce, peanut sauce, hoisin sauce etc.