My family has given up dining out much, but I still get cravings for certain things that I never thought I’d know how to make myself at home. For example, ethnic foods. I love Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, but I get intimidated by some of the ingredients. Where do I get them? How do I prepare them? If I can get my hands on the right ingredients, the packaging doesn’t help me much–if there are any directions, they’re not necessarily in english. So I lucked out when my husband and I visited one of his coworkers and I met his sweet wife who is Thai and an amazing cook! She let me watch her make authentic Vietnamese Pho soup, and even let me help her make a pile of spring rolls, explaining everything as we went. With a little sleuthing at an Asian Market, or any market with a decent sized Asian section, you can get everything you need to make this popular restaurant appetizer at home very economically.
Time: about an hour Yield: at least a dozen
Ingredients I (look for these in an Asian Market or well-stocked Asian Section):
1 package Spring Roll Wrappers (shelf stable, ingredients: tapioca flour, water and salt)
1/2 package Rice Stick Noodles (they are very thin and come dried, shelf stable, ingredients: rice flour and water)
Thai Basil (this is a fresh herb with a minty flavor, dark green leaves and purplish stems), wash, remove stems and lay leaves flat on top of each other. roll the leaves up together and then slice thinly.
Fresh Bean Sprouts (they should be pure white when fresh. If they are yellowed at all, pass)
Sweet Chili Sauce (optional, for dipping)
3-4 fresh young Coconuts (optional, to cook pork, look for already shaved young coconuts with a round bottom and conical top for easier opening)
Ingredients II (easy to find at any market):
1 lb Shrimp, peeled, deveined, cooked and cooled–if using larger sized shrimp, cut them lengthwise into thin crescents
1 cucumber, sliced then cut into narrow strips
1 carrot, peeled and either shredded or use grater to make thin strips
1 lime, cut in thin wedges
lettuce, such as red or green leaf lettuce or romaine, washed, trimmed, and torn into medium sized pieces
lean pork tenderloin (optional) and kitchen twine
If using pork in your spring rolls, tie your tenderloin with kitchen twine into a football shape to keep it together as it cooks, and set aside. Using a large knife, chop the “point” off of the top of the fresh young coconuts to expose the flesh and water inside. Pour the fresh coconut water into a medium sized pot. You can then spoon out the soft flesh and refrigerate for later (it’s delicious eaten as is or can be blended into a coconut “pudding”). Heat the fresh coconut water over medium heat and add the pork tenderloin. Keep it just below a simmer and allow it to cook uncovered until the meat is soft and when stabbed with a knife, juices run clear.
While the pork is cooking, run very warm water into a large bowl and submerge about half a package of the rice stick noodles in the warm water and allow them to soak for 30-60 minutes until they are soft and pliable. You don’t want to cook them or they will turn to mush. If they are not softening up enough after half hour, refresh with hotter water.
Wash and prep all of your produce as directed above. When pork is done, carefully remove from the coconut water, remove twine, slice thinly and allow to cool. Drain softened rice noodles. Fill a pie plate or similar large shallow dish with very hot water, but cool enough that it will not burn your fingers. Assemble spring rolls one at a time by submerging a wrapper in the hot water a few seconds, just until softened–too long and it will stick to itself and be unusable. Place softened wrapper on a flat surface and place a line of a few shrimp pieces near the base. Add a thin slice of pork just above the shrimp, then add a small pile of rice noodles, a few fresh bean sprouts, a little of the cucumber and carrot and a few pieces of thai basil. Squeeze a little lime juice over the ingredients and wrap it all up by gently folding the bottom up over the shrimp and veggies, then folding in each side and continue rolling to the top. It may take one or two to get the process down and get a feel for how much of each ingredient you need to add. Continue assembling until you run out of ingredients. Serve immediately, with small dishes of sweet chili sauce or whip up a Thai Style Peanut Sauce for dipping.