Salad rolls, traditionally filled with juicy shrimp and pork, can be stuffed with just about anything, including grilled chicken, salmon or leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Rice paper sheets tear easily, so keep extra on hand just in case.
1/2 pound pork shoulder
1/8 pound rice vermicelli
12 shrimp with shells on
8 (12-inch round) rice paper sheets
1 small head red leaf lettuce, leaves separated
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup mint leaves plus extra for garnish
1 cup Hoisin Peanut Sauce or Nuoc Cham (see separate recipe)
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
2 tablespoons ground chile paste
Cilantro sprigs (optional)
Cook pork in boiling salted water until just tender, 45 to 55 minutes. Set aside to cool, then slice very thin.
Cook rice vermicelli in boiling water 1 to 5 minutes. Rinse and drain. Set aside.
Cook shrimp in salted boiling water until just cooked through, about 1 minute. Refresh in cold water. Shell, devein and cut in half lengthwise. Set aside.
Just before making rolls, set up salad roll "station." Fill large mixing bowl with hot water. Have more hot water handy to add to bowl if temperature drops below 110 degrees. Choose open area on counter and arrange in order rice paper, hot water, damp cheesecloth and platter holding pork, shrimp, vermicelli, lettuce, sprouts and mint.
Working with 2 rice paper sheets at a time, dip 1 sheet, edge first, in hot water and turn until completely wet, about 10 seconds. Lay sheet on cheesecloth and stretch slightly to remove wrinkles. Wet second rice paper sheet and place it alongside first. (This enables you to work with first rice paper sheet while second is being set.)
Line bottom third of wet rice sheet with 3 shrimp halves, cut side up, and top with 2 slices pork. Make sure ingredients are neatly placed in straight row. Roll piece of lettuce into thin cylinder and place on top, making sure it covers length of rice paper. (Note: You may need to use only 1/2 a leaf if it's too big.)
Top with 1 tablespoon vermicelli, 1 tablespoon bean sprouts and 4 to 5 mint leaves. Make sure ingredients are not clumped together in center but evenly distributed.
Using fingers, press down on ingredients while using thumbs to fold the bottom edge over filling. (Note: Pressing is important because it tightens roll.) With fingers still pressing down, fold 2 sides over and roll into cylinder about 1 1/2 inches wide and 5 to 6 inches long. Finish making all remaining rolls. (Note: You can make them in advance up to this point and cover with a damp towel.)
To serve, cut rolls into 4 equal pieces and place the rolls upright on appetizer plate. Serve with Hoisin Peanut Sauce and garnish with sprinkling of chopped peanuts and ground chile paste. Garnish plate with mint or cilantro sprigs if desired.
8 servings. Each serving without sauce and garnish:
125 calories; 152 mg sodium; 62 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 0.26 gram fiber.
HOISIN-PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE
I have tested and eaten many versions of this sauce, but I still think this one I developed for our Lemon Grass restaurant is the easiest and most delicious. It's also great with grilled meats. For a more complex flavor, add sauteed garlic and ginger before reducing the sauce.
1 cup hoisin sauce or ground bean sauce
2/3 cup water plus more if needed
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup coconut milk, optional
1/3 cup pureed or finely minced onion
1 tablespoon ground chile paste or to taste
1 tablespoon chopped peanuts
Combine hoisin sauce, 2/3 cup water, vinegar, coconut milk and onion in small saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to very low and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add little more water if it gets too thick. Transfer to bowl.
When ready to serve, pour sauce into small ramekins and garnish each with chile paste and roasted peanuts. Sauce will keep 1 week in refrigerator.
Makes about 2 cups. Each tablespoon:
16 calories; 792 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.22 gram fiber.
NUOC CHAM (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)
This sweet-and-sour dipping sauce is a staple condiment of the Vietnamese kitchen. Serve it with salad rolls and spring rolls or just drizzle on any noodle and rice dish.
1 small clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground chile paste
1 to 2 fresh Thai bird chiles or to taste
1/4 cup fish sauce
3/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons lime juice with pulp
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons very finely shredded carrots
Pound garlic, chile paste and bird chiles into paste in mortar with pestle. (Note: Garlic and chiles may be finely minced by hand.)
Combine chile mixture with fish sauce, water, lime juice and sugar. Stir well. Spoon into ramekins and garnish with shredded carrots.
Makes 1 cup. Each tablespoon:
19 calories; 180 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.04 gram fiber.