I’ve been feeling lately like marathon training has isolated me from friends and social contact, so this last weekend I decided to have a party. I didn’t really have a particularly good reason to throw a party, but I like to cook and I like to entertain. I figured it was the first week of fall…and my cat’s 3rd birthday…so that was all the reason I needed. So I did what I normally do when I throw a party: cook a ridiculous amount of food, and send the leftovers home with my guests. My original plan was to make “fall” foods, but when I researched recipes, everything involved squash or apples, which I then voted against. Instead, I chose a menu with warm, spicy foods that still make you feel cozy but not like it’s Thanksgiving day.
I made coconut lemongrass grilled chicken, thai curry soup, honey garlic turkey/chicken meatballs, a chili-apricot grilled pork tenderloin, a pickled napa cabbage salad, and potstickers. (I found myself racing around the kitchen all day that I didn’t have the energy to photograph everything or keep track of the ingredients I used.)
I realized the only thing missing from this Asian-themed dinner was Vietnamese salad rolls. So I asked my beloved half-Vietnamese friend Alex to come over as my “guest chef” and make them for me so I could blog about them and make her famous. Well, she agreed, and she was at it for about 3 hours while everyone else just relaxed, ate, drank and made conversation. Sorry Alex, but we greatly appreciate it!
The beauty of salad rolls is that you can fill them with basically anything you want, they’re super easy to make, and great when feeding a crowd of people. Just be sure to prep all your vegetables and meats before people show up to make the process easier. Otherwise, you’ll end up like Alex here, busy at work while the rest of us were stuffing our pie holes. 🙂
1 package thin rice noodles (package might say rice threads, found at Asian grocers)
1 package rice papers (or tapioca papers, found at Asian grocers)
1 bell pepper, any color you like best
a bushel of cilantro, cut off stems and use only leaves
carrots, shredded or thinly sliced
your favorite lettuce (we used romaine)
cooked shrimp, cut lengthwise
1 large piece of ginger, sliced into thin matchsticks
1 package fried tofu, sliced into thin pieces
thai basil leaves
Slice and prepare vegetables, shrimp and tofu.
Remove lettuce stems, reserving only the leaves, like so:
Meanwhile, in a pot, boil water and cook rice noodles until soft. Add warm water to a large bowl or pot, big enough to dip in rice papers. To assemble a salad roll, dip one rice paper in the warm water.
Put on a flat surface. Layer on shrimp, bell pepper, tofu, carrots, ginger, cilantro, mint and basil, then noodles onto one side of the wrapper. Don’t put in the middle of the wrapper, but in the outer quarter of one side. Don’t fill the rolls too much or they will be harder to roll and keep intact.
Tightly roll the end of the wrapper (closest to the filling) over the filling. Make sure the wrapper is tight enough over the filling so it won’t fall out. Next, fold each of the two sides over the filling (like an envelope). Roll rice paper like a burrito. Serve with peanut sauce. (Should make at least 20 rolls)
You can try this peanut sauce recipe from Allrecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/the-best-thai-peanut-sauce/detail.aspx