I needed to make an appetizer for a foodie event. I wanted it to be fresh with a lot of vegetables. Something light; I was envisioning an encapsulated salad. Hm, how to do that? The first obvious thing that came to my mind was in form of an Southeast Asian style spring roll. After officially being trained at Smart Cook Thai Cookery School and honing my knife skills, I felt confident in making a sizable batch of these perfectly fresh, gluten free and milk free finger foods. There are a couple of tricks to make these spring rolls with ease: preparation and assembly. Preparation of the vegetables is the first step in efficient spring roll making. The smaller the cut of the vegetables, the better. The ideal cut of the vegetables is julienne - 2 inches long, and 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch. I thought it would be best to make a thick sauce and put in on the inside of the roll as opposed to having it on the side.
Let's talk about ingredients. Most importantly, you will need those round rice spring roll wrappers that are dry. To hydrate them, have a roasting/baking pan filled with warm water. The sauce I made from Panda Brand MSG Free (and gluten free) oyster sauce, brown sugar, ground peanuts, lime juice, finely chopped kaffir lime leaves, and chili paste/sauce. The filling comprises of mostly vegetables and herbs. I used what I found at the store and what looked best. For these rolls I used bib lettuce, carrots, radish sprouts, jicama, chives, mint, and basil. Looking at this recipe in the Smart Cook Thai cookbook, they call for minced tofu, glass noodles, bean sprouts. It is totally up for intrpretation, but try to keep it simple and differentiated in color and texture for a super impressive roll.
Making an efficient assembly line is kind of fun and makes the spring roll production a lot easier. In the chef world, we call in mise en place. French for "everything in it's place." In the center of my workspace is my large cutting board with a towel underneath to prevent slippage and a damp towel on top for a moist workspace for assembling and rolling. To the left: the stack of rice spring roll wrappers and large roasting pan of warm water - only put in one wrapper at a time. Then, above your cutting board, place all the veggies and herbs, as well as the sauce. The wrapper needs about one to two minutes of soaking to soften completely. The wrapper is the most difficult part of making the rolls. It takes practice to figure it out; do not be discouraged if you rip them. It is bound to happen to the best of us. Once the wrapper is completely softened, carefully grab it at the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions and bring it to the center of your prepared cutting board and lay it down as smooth as possible. Now put another wrapper in the water. Time for assembly. Place a small amount of each ingredient towards the bottom center in a tight line. A tip to note: place a very small amount of sauce on the hardest ingredients like carrots so it does not get too soggy over time. Then fold up the bottom part of the wrapper to cover the filling. Fold in the sides, and carefully and snugly roll it up completely. Now your off to repeat to make more rolls. To serve it, I cut it on the basis and served in upright for a colorful presentation. Give it a try! It may be frustrating at first, but the results are worth it.
The Sensitive Epicure