The Vietnamese use edible rice paper (banh trang) as the wrapping for their traditional springs rolls. In the preparation of fresh rolls, the paper is simply softened and wrapped around cooked shrimp and pork, fresh vegetables and herbs. For crisp versions, the rolls are deep-fried.
Rice paper is made from rice, salt and water. It’s dried in the sun on bamboo mats, producing a distinctive crosshatch pattern on the resulting thin, brittle wrappers.
To soften the paper, place one or two sheets on a clean work surface, spritz with warm water and rub gently with your hand (Step 1). Turn and repeat on the second side. Keeping the papers lying flat, spritz with water and rub occasionally, until softened and pliable.
Prepare fresh spring rolls by placing half a lettuce leaf over the bottom third of the rice paper. Top with softened cellophane noodles, shredded carrot (Step 2), a few pieces of cooked pork, some bean sprouts and several mint leaves (Step 3).
Encase these ingredients by rolling the rice paper halfway, into a cylinder (Step 4). Next fold in the sides of the paper (Step 5), burrito-fashion.
Place 2 to 3 shrimp halves, cut side down, along the crease, then tuck a couple of sprigs of chives underneath, leaving about one inch extending out the side. Place two or three cilantro leaves next to the shrimp (Step 6).
Continue to roll the paper (Step 7), forming a cylinder. Cut the roll into quarters (Step 8) and serve with nuoc cham , the traditional Vietnamese sauce, or hoisin sauce and a sprinkling of finely chopped peanuts.
FRESH SPRING ROLLS
2 ounces cellophane noodles (bean threads)
8 to 12 medium raw shrimp
12 ounces fresh bacon (pork belly) or boneless pork loin, in 1 piece
1 large carrot, shredded
1 teaspoon sugar
8 (8 1/2-inch diameter) rounds edible rice paper (banh trang)
4 large red leaf lettuce leaves
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1/4 cup mint leaves
16 chive sprigs, trimmed to 5-inch lengths
16 to 24 cilantro leaves
Fish or hoisin sauce
Finely chopped roasted peanuts
Soak noodles in warm water 20 minutes. Drain and cut into 1-inch lengths.
Boil shrimp 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Shell, devein and cut in half lengthwise.
Cook fresh bacon in boiling salted water 20 minutes. Rinse under cold water. Slice into thin strips.
Combine carrot and sugar in bowl. Set aside 10 minutes.
Moisten 2 rounds rice paper at a time by spritzing with warm water and rubbing with hand. Allow to stand on flat surface until softened.
Remove stem ends from lettuce leaves and cut each in half. Place 1 half over bottom third of each rice paper. Top with 1 tablespoon noodles, 1 tablespoon carrot, few pieces pork, few bean sprouts and several mint leaves.
Roll up paper halfway into cylinder. Fold sides of paper inward. Place 2 to 3 shrimp halves, cut side down, along crease. Tuck 2 chive sprigs under shrimp, leaving about 1 inch extending out side. Place 2 to 3 cilantro leaves next to shrimp.
Continue to roll paper into cylinder. Place on plate covered with damp towel while filling remaining wrappers. Cut each roll into quarters and serve with nuoc cham or hoisin sauce, sprinkled with peanuts. Makes 4 servings.
Note: To prepare nuoc cham, puree 2 cloves garlic, 1 red chile (seeded) and 1 tablespoon sugar in food processor or blender. Add 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1/4 cup fish sauce (nuoc mam) and 1/4 cup rice vinegar, blending well.
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