Vietnamese Cold Spring Rolls (Goi Cuon)

Ho Chi Min City made a mark on us when we visited in 2010. The many motorbikes on the roads, the early risers who take exercise seriously, and the hardworking nature of the Vietnamese folk is something to be admired. We first tasted this fresh little parcel of a spring roll in a Vietnamese Restaurant in Singapore! And when we finally visited Vietnam, we found out that there are many versions to this delightful side dish.

When I started living in New Zealand, the husband and I went out on our date night and had these spring rolls, but they were filled more with the rice vermicelli (thin white noodles) than anything else. Wanting to lower our carb intake, I had to take things into my own hands, literally.

The rice paper wraps were easy enough to find in Asian food shops.

Yield: 20 rolls

Ingredients for rolls

1 package clear edible rice paper sheet (about 20cm in diameter)

250 gm cooked chicken cut into thin strips

250 gm cooked medium sized prawns (peeled, deveined)

1 small bunch fresh cilantro leaves

1 a few sprigs of fresh mint leaves

1 head leafy lettuce, washed and julienned into fine strips

1 firm cucumber, peeled, cored and julienned into very thin strips

250 gm fresh bean sprout,

100 gms vermicelli rice noodles, prepared according to package directions

hoisin sauce, to taste

chopped peanuts – Optional

fish sauce

Directions:

  1. Cook the chicken till just tender. Blanch prawns after peeling and deveining it, half the prawns so that the two sides are exact halves of each other. This can be prepared ahead of time and cooled.
  2. Vermicelli rice noodles can be easily cooked in boiling water for a few short minutes till just soft. Alternatively, place all the dry noodle in a large bowl, pour boiling water over the noodles and let it sit till noodles are softened. Set aside to cool.
  3. Clean all vegetables and herbs thoroughly as they will be eaten as is. Dry them out with a salad spinner or shake off excess water and use a paper towel to dab the excess water away.
  4. Keep these ingredients all within reach and in their respective piles.
  5. Prepare the rice paper wrapper. I used a quiche plate. Alternatively, use any pie plate with a little depth and bigger than the rice paper itself. Fill it to about an inch of moderately warm water. Too hot and the rice paper could disintegrate. Dip one sheet of rice paper into the warm water very quickly, about a second or two and very gently lift the rice paper wrap by two hands and lay flat on a work surface. I used a cheese board for this. Try to lift the rice paper wrapper without it overlapping over itself.
  6. On the edge closer to you, lay out the prawns first, so they will look pretty after it is wrapped. Then followed by a small handful of noodles, a few strips of meat, a few leaves of cilantro and mint, some strips of cut lettuce, some cucumber strips and bean sprouts, keep it small if this is your first time. Rule of thumb, better a thin roll than an overstuffed one.
  7. As the rice paper roll is now very flexible, carefully fold in the two sides, then roll up the rest away from you. The roll should be snug and quite tight, but not too tight since the wrapper might tear. Don’t worry, you will get the hang of it. Practise, practise, practise. The first few might end up in your own mouth to destroy evidence, but that also lets you know if it tastes good!
  8. Only dip another rice paper in after you finish rolling the first one. Slow and easy, one at a time. It’s not for the impatient!

Now for the dipping sauce:

  1. Combine three tablespoons of hoisin sauce with 1 Tablespoon of Fish sauce. Sprinkle with chopped roasted peanuts. On days when I want a quicker and easier way, I use Sweet chilli sauce, with a squeeze of lemon juice.
  2. Serve immediately- Best eaten fresh because they do not keep well and will harden up in the fridge, I store them in an air tight container before consumption. It is best to make just enough for the party. Store any extra unassembled fillings separately in the fridge and roll later.
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