There’s nothing like practising knife skills to keep little hands busy in the kitchen and this week, the Petits Chefs got to practice (and show off!) theirs as they prepared Rainbow Rice Paper Rolls from Cameron Stauch’s beautiful new book, Vegetarian Viet Nam (full review and giveaway coming to the blog on the weekend!). This is a great recipe to practice precision knife skills because all the vegetables have to be similar length and width so concentration is the name of the game. Check out the boys’ handiwork:
This is a great recipe to do in stages, cleaning as you go – we prepped our mise en place, cleaned our stations and got ready to roll…
A few of the boys made the dipping sauce to go along with the rolls…
And then we organised ourselves into an assembly line
Rolling these type of cold rolls is always a bit of a challenge (the rice paper is super sticky when it gets wet and there’s a fine balance between the wrap being soft enough to roll and so soft it falls apart. We all found that our first roll was a little bit wonky but they got much better as we went along…
The trick is to have all your ingredients prepped (check) and organised in close proximity to each other (check) as once you’ve dipped the rice paper roll into the water, you need to work fast…
We also learned that, just like with tacos, more filling is not always better (these rolls in particular are super hard to assemble properly if they have too much filling)…
All the boys ended up with three pretty (sometimes imperfectly pretty!) rolls and a small amount of dipping sauce. I think they did really well!
More importantly, though… the taste?
These were SO good, so light and fresh. The veggies, noodles, mint and coriander all play so very nicely together inside the lettuce and rice paper wrapping and the sauce (so easy to make – who knew?) and the great thing about this recipe is that you can use pretty much any vegetable you have on hand (jicama and watermelon or daikon radishes were not to be found on the weekend in the middle of a snow and ice storm here in Toronto so we went with cucumber and peppers – same technique, different vegetables!). Such a great recipe for petits (and grands) chefs!
I’ve been given permission from the publisher to share the recipe today so you can all make these at home too!
Yield: 16 rolls
Rainbow Rice Paper Rolls
Light and flavorful, these beautiful rolls make perfect hot-weather food. They’re easy to assemble too. Just wrap soft, translucent rice paper around vermicelli rice noodles, tender lettuce, crunchy vegetables, and herbs—then dip it in a lively sauce.
When I’m at the farmers’ market, I seek out multicolored carrots and watermelon radish for their bold visual impact, and, availability permitting, I encourage you to follow suit. That way, when you take a bite, you expose the rolls’ vibrant, almost kaleidoscopic interior. Native to Sài Gòn, these rolls are a southern Vietnamese specialty.
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks (1 cup) (see Note)
¼ pound (113 g) watermelon radish or daikon, cut into matchsticks (1 cup) (see Note)
¼ pound (113 g) jicama, cut into 32 strips 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) long and ¼ inch (6 mm) wide (1 cup)
1 head green or red Bibb or Boston lettuce, torn into palm-sized pieces
1 cup packed cilantro leaves
¾ cup packed mint or Thai basil leaves or a combination
16 rice paper rounds, 8½ inches (22 cm) in diameter
For the Everyday Table Sauce:
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup (62.5 ml) water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
1 fresh red Thai bird chile, finely chopped or thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
For the rolls:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in the noodles and use chopsticks or tongs to untangle and loosen. Boil until tender, 3 to 5 minutes, then drain and immediately flush with cold water.
Squeeze gently four or five times to get rid of any excess water. Set aside on a plate, loosely covered with a clean kitchen towel. (You should have about 2 cups of noodles).
Mix the carrot and radish together and divide into four piles on a large plate. Place, along with the jicama, lettuce, cilantro, mint, and rice paper, next to a clean cutting board, preferably next to the stove.
Place a large shallow skillet or a 9- or 10-inch (23 to 25 cm) pie plate filled with warm to hot tap water on an unlit burner closest to the cutting board. Dip one rice paper into the water for a few seconds to soften and lay it flat on the cutting board. Place a lettuce leaf on the bottom third of the rice paper, leaving a border of 1½ inches (4 cm) on either side. Place 1½ to 2 tablespoons of noodles on the lettuce and spread into a 4-½-inch (11 cm) line. Line three leaves of cilantro and a leaf or two each of mint and basil over the top. Grab a portion of the carrot/radish mixture (a quarter of each pile is one portion) and two jicama strips and spread over the length of the noodles, overlapping if necessary.
Carefully lift the bottom edge of rice paper over the filling and roll over once into a tight cylinder. Fold in the sides and continue to roll into a cylinder 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12. 5 cm) in length. Place on a clean plate or serving platter loosely covered with a damp clean dish towel. Repeat with the remaining rice paper and filling. (When the water is no longer warm, gently reheat it or discard the cold water from the pie plate and refill with warm to hot water.)
Store the rolls in a single layer on a plate or tray covered with a damp clean dish towel and wrapped with plastic in the fridge for up to several hours before serving.
Make the Everyday Table Sauce.
Put the sugar, water, rice vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, and salt into a bowl. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Add and mix in the chile and garlic. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Let the sauce sit for 10 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to intermingle.
Serve in one medium bowl with a spoon so guests can drizzle some extra sauce into their spring rolls following their initial bite. Or double the recipe and serve in small individual bowls.
Serve the rolls on a platter or individual plates and dip into the sauce before eating.
Note on the rolls: If you have some pickled carrots and daikon in the fridge, substitute 2 drained cups of it for the carrot and radish.
Note on the sauce: You can mix the sugar, water, vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, and salt together up to a day in advance. Stir in the chile and garlic 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Variations on the sauce:
For a sweeter sauce, add 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon more sugar.
Whisk in 1 teaspoon fermented tofu or a tablespoon of the fermented tofu brine.
Stir in ¼ to ½ teaspoon wakame or hijiki powder.
Use fresh coconut water (not milk) instead of tap water.
Add 1½ teaspoons finely chopped lemongrass.
did you make this recipe?
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