I know we post our fair share of Southern comfort food. Hailing from Texas and Kentucky, we come by it honest, but the truth is that all food and food cultures inspire us. As mentioned in my last post, I spent two weeks in May in Thailand. My first overseas trip was full of exploring, hilarious confusion, motorbikes, and food. I used to tell people I could eat Thai food exclusively for the rest of my life if I had to, and while in Thailand, it kind of felt like I was on my way to doing just that. When we got back stateside it took me almost a full month to go back to the cuisine. Truth is, I appreciate all food too much to choose one type exclusively.
When reading through my copy of the Love & Lemons cookbook (an amazing new vegan and vegetarian cookbook) last week I came across her recipe for spring rolls. (Which I had with nearly every meal while in Thailand.) Her recipe includes mango and avocado (two of my favorite foods, and two things I'd never seen before in spring rolls.) The mango reminded me of all the sweet mango sticky rice we ate on our trip, and I knew I had to try to combine this recipe with other more traditional spring roll recipes.
Truth be told, I was definitely guessing my way through this recipe. I eat a lot of Thai food, but don't really know the first thing about cooking or preparing it. The process was totally foreign to me. I remember making egg rolls with my mom once as a kid, but I'm not sure they were all that successful and I'm certain we fell back on ordering them from Lee's China after one homemade attempt. I thought the hardest part of this recipe would be prepping the ingredients since it involves so much tedious slicing, but I was wrong. Hands down the rolling was a much harder technique to get right. Here are a few tips from my experience:
- The rice paper wrappers are super sticky and tear easily — the trick seems to be that you must only dunk them in the warm water for a second or two, so they don't get so sticky and floppy that they burst when rolling.
- Do not overstuff your rolls. My first roll was huge and two shrimp came bursting through the wrapper as I tried to seal it. Three shrimp instead of four seemed to be the perfect number.
- I wouldn't skimp on produce. It may be tempting to buy shredded carrots but buying the produce whole and slicing them yourself will yield a much tastier spring roll.
- When wrapping the ingredients and forming your roll, wrap like a tiny burrito. Gently fold in the edges first then roll from top to bottom.
Don't let my fumbling deter you from trying these on your own, though. They're so tasty and fresh. I love that you can customize the taste to your own palette. For example, I'm a big mango fan so I added more slices. As we were rolling, Todd and I thoughts about how fun it would be to set up a spring roll station at a dinner party and have guests gather around to make their own. Everyone learning from each other would surely be a great icebreaker for guests who don't know one another.
Like all good things, it takes a little bit of practice but the effort is so worth it!
- Bring 4 cups of water and 1 Tbsp. of salt to a boil, then turn down to medium-low and let sit for about 5 minutes. Add the vermicelli to the hot poaching liquid (no need to simmer or boil the water because that may over cook the noodles). Cook until just al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain.
- Toss the carrots, cucumbers and shrimp with the rice wine vinegar, lime juice and soy sauce.
- Dip each rice paper wrapper in warm water, one at a time, for a second (no longer or they will get too soft). The wrapper should still feel somewhat hard when you first start working with it. By the time you finish getting all of your fillings in, the wrapper will have continued to soften.
- Assemble: Layer with 3 shrimp first, then mint, vegetables, mango and avocado. Lastly add the noodles. Gently wrap and serve with peanut dipping sauce.
*Download a printable version of the recipe here.