Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gỏi cuốn - Summer Roll, Fresh Spring roll, Salad Roll, Fresh Roll...

This fun for everyone meal is a delicious combination of simple ingredients that requires little effort in preparation if such a path is chosen. This is one meal I've made before, on my own and with a group of friends, it's definitely great for groups.

While we were eating this, my wife told me about how the first she had this was at New Year's Eve with my extended relatives, as they host a party every year. It was the first time she had met many of them and they sat her in the middle of the room, put a blanket on her head like a cowl and danced around her, spouting gibberish Vietnamese. By 'they' I mean the adults, the kids were pretty normal with her. The meal we had for the kids was Gỏi cuốn and I remember my wife was just starting to get habituated to Nuoc Mam, but certainly not used to Hoisin sauce, or even stinky sauce (Shrimp paste mixed with stuff and pineapple). I insisted that Hoisin was the way to go with this but to no avail. It is now about 6 years later and she was loving the peanut Hoisin. Maybe it wasn't peanut Hoisin back then.

EDIT: Turns out that it is only called Gỏi cuốn if it's shrimp and pork. If it's a baked fish then it's called Cá Nuong Bánh Tráng (Fish Bake Rice Paper, plus many missing accents). How complicated although I'm not surprised as the baked fish is a special dish in itself! In any case, the rest of the fillings tend to remain the same.

Gỏi cuốn
Printable Version 

- A package of rice paper (Bánh Tráng)
- A bowl of hot water

Meat Filling:
- A whole Fish (Salmon!), Shrimp, Pork, whatever you like.
- Green Onion
- Onion

- Vermicelli (Bun)
- Lettuce
- Bean Sprouts
- A couple sprigs of mint
- Chives
- Cucumber, sliced into long strips.

Dipping Sauce
- Hoisin Sauce
- Peanut butter (Chunky if you like)
- Crushed peanuts
- Chili sauce if you want to spice it up
- Lime Juice


For whatever the reason, my parents would always remove the roots from bean sprouts. Just snap them off at the bottom while you watch your favourite Jdrama. Sorting through your giant bag of bean sprouts is also important because there are so many little bits and some of them can be kind of rotten. 

Spoiler alert: He hadn't seen her face for a while.

They look nicer this way.

 I recommend doing this early as it takes a little while, about two 40-minute episodes worth.

Pre-heat oven 350 degrees while you prepare the fish. Prepare a baking dish with aluminum foil. Make a few incisions in the piece of fish. Season with salt and pepper, top with green onions and some slices of white onion. Drizzle with oil. When ready, wrap it up in the foil so it stays nice and tender and you can crisp it up at the end by opening the foil for a few minutes.

I remembered the white onion after I took this.
Now prepare the veggie fillings, wash them, slice them, etc. Put on a pot of boiling water.

 Feels like there should be text here.

Once the water boils, get your bun and toss it in. Once the noodles are able to be separated easily from one another (About 2-3 minutes) then pour the noodles through a strainer and run them under some cold water to stop them from cooking.

Bun, my mortal enemy.

But this batch turned out fine.
Prepare the peanut Hoisin sauce by putting a sauce pot on low heat and adding some Hoisin. Then some peanut butter. Squeeze in some lime juice and a dash of chili sauce. I have no measurements for this part since it's really to your taste but basically use more Hoisin than peanut butter. Play around with the lime juice to change the thickness, and you can always add water as well if it's too thick.

Boil up some water in a kettle and then pour it into a bowl, let it cool down a bit then dip the rice paper in the water. Don't give the rice paper a bath, just a quick dip to cover it all with water and take it out, rest it on your plate for a few seconds and then start piling on your ingredients. Roll it up, from one side, fold in the sides, dip it in sauce and enjoy your happy time.

The bowl of water is in the bottom left.

Gillian tip #1 : Don't put the bean sprouts on top as they
may puncture through the rice paper!

When I was younger my lack of manual dexterity hindered my ability to make a roll that would stay together, so I ended up having a mess of food in my dipping bowl. I compensated by adding more ingredients into the bowl and simply eating out of that. In fact, I adopted this practice for another one of my favourite dishes and find it tastes better that way. To allow me to be able to eat like a normal human being, my loving parents would roll a bunch of them and pile them on a dish for my brother and I to eat. Although it isn't quite in the spirit of the meal, I was appreciative for the fact that I didn't have to pause between rolls to make another one. As you can see below, I started stock piling some rolls this evening. This meal is definitely a winner amongst non-Vietnamese cuisine eater, so if you're looking to lure someone in, hit them with this first. Enjoy!

They may not be pretty, but they're functional!

Oh! In the true spirit of my family while I was preparing all the other ingredients, I made some noodles for an easy portable lunch tomorrow. I always have an excess of bean sprouts when I buy them since they're about a dollar for 30 pounds and since we tend to enjoy them in stir fries or noodle dishes, I figured why not? Otherwise they tend to go to waste :/

Throw a bunch of things in a pot. Soya sauce it.
Gee gee gee gee baby baby baby.