I went out for Vietnamese last weekend, one of my favorite all-time cuisines. Spring rolls. I need to make spring rolls more often... that's what I took away from that dinner outing. When I was fresh out of high-school, I worked at a Chinese buffet/take-out place. I worked there because I walked up there so often (I even had a "usual" order... Mongolian beef and crab Rangoon...) that I befriended the owner, and when he was looking for someone to answer phones, clear tables and man the front counter, he trusted me.
It was at this job that I discovered authentic Vietnamese cooking. See, the owner was from Vietnam. What, does that surprise you, since it was a "Chinese" restaurant? Hopefully you understand that what passes as Chinese food at most mainstream places in the U.S. is very very American, and has little to do with Chinese food. In this neighborhood, an authentic Vietnamese place would not have been profitable. So "Chinese" it was. Now, when the owner and his wife and brother cooked meals for themselves, that's when I learned a bit about Vietnamese cooking. Ohhhhh... the lemongrass and pork soups! I still cannot replicate them. One of my favorite lunches was spring rolls. We would all sit at a table, all the fixin's laid out, a bowl of hot water and some dried spring-roll wrappers, and just fill and roll and eat away. It was satisfying, social, health and fun.
I made spring rolls tonight. I was gonna make the usual, pork, shrimp, noodles, beansprouts, cilantro. However, when I was at the Asian grocery store getting a couple ingredients for them, I was thrilled to see that the had fresh shiso leaves. I discovered shiso at my favorite sushi joint... a large green herb leaf, tasting like a cross between basil and mint... Ohhhh how I love shiso. and it's the perfect size to fit inside a spring roll!!
Spring Rolls with Pork, Shrimp & Shiso leaf
-2 Tablespoons white vinegar
-4 Tablespoons soy sauce
-3 garlic cloves, grated
-1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
-1/2 Tablespoon Sriracha sauce
-1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
-1 Tablespoon honey
-1 teaspoon cumin
-dash of red pepper flakes
-dash of cayenne pepper
-3 pork rib chops, sliced thin
-1/2 pound cooked medium cocktail shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
-about 12 shiso leaves
-1 individual package bean thread noodles (size of a large handful)
-about 12 spring roll wrappers
-Mix the marinade ingredients together well. Pour about 1/3 of it into a separate bowl and add the shrimp to that bowl; toss well to coat, refrigerate shrimp. add the pork to the rest of the marinade, and let sit for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, cook the noodles and let them cool.
-Cook the pork in about 1 Tablespoon of oil, marinade and all, until cooked through. set aside and let cool a bit.
-Assemble spring rolls (see pics below for set-up and assembly): Fill a bowl (big enough to fit a spring roll wrapper in flat) with warm water. Submerge a spring roll wrapper in the water for about 10 seconds. Remove and lay it flat on a plate. Place a shiso leaf on top of the wrapper, and place pork, shrimp, noodles and bean sprouts down a line in the center. Fold the sides of the wrapper in, and roll the top towards the bottom, using you thumbs to keep the fillings in place as you roll. This takes lots of practice if you're going for pretty. You can tell from the pictures that I am out of practice.
-For dipping sauce, mix together about equal amounts of vinegar and soy sauce, and add sriracha, sesame seeds and sugar to your liking. And/ or use your favorite peanut sauce.
The shiso adds a fresh, aromatic flavor to the spring roll. They also create a very pretty stained glass-like look as they are visible through the semi-translucent wrapper. and the pork is nice and spicy. The beans sprouts at crunch and coolness. You can either assemble a bunch at a time (but be aware that the wrappers will start to toughen as they dry if left out too long), or have everything out on the tables and let family and friends assemble their own as they go.