Throughout Vietnam cuisine varies between the northern, central and southern regions but the two components consistently found in almost all dishes across this glorious land are generous handfuls of delicious fresh native herbs and the chief carbohydrate – rice.
I visited Hoi An, the undisputed food capital recently where I was invited to gate crash a hands-on cooking lesson. What I learnt about Vietnamese cuisine is that it is such incredibly fresh ‘on the spot’ food that it can create a double edge sword for the entertainer that likes to spend time with the guests as opposed to the kitchen stove.
This discovery posed a bit of a problem for me as when I gather a bunch of friends together for an evening of culinary delight I try as much as possible to prepare my food ahead of time but unfortunately this type of cuisine doesn’t lend itself easily to that method of cooking.
I found a solution in one recipe though – a starter that I can prepare in advance and magically assemble in moments, and it’s quickly become a firm favourite amongst my friends.
To make these tasty Rice Paper Rolls you’ll need to locate some authentic ‘thick rice paper’ exclusively used for fresh spring rolls from your local Asian market – I bought the Minh Tam ones. Rub the rice paper with a damp cloth then place the filling on top allowing time for the paper to soften before rolling up.
8 sheets of rice paper
3 cups of mixed fresh herbs; Thai basil, mint, coriander, bean sprouts & a mixture of the finest and most delicate lettuce leaves you can get your hands on
200gr rice vermicelli noodles, blanched for 3mins and left to cool
8 slices of thinly sliced pork, with fat
12 prawns, cooked and sliced in half
12 flat garlic chives, 6 cm length
Place a sheet of rice paper on a flat surface and rub with a damp cloth to soften. Place a handful of the mixed herbs & lettuce at the edge of the paper closest to you, then 2 slices of pork, and 3 slices of prawns, pink side down. Roll over from the edge until you reach the prawns, fold in the sides, place the garlic chives on the right hand side [half out like picture] then roll up and serve with sweet and sour sauce.
Sweet and Sour Sauce:
1 tblsp lime juice
1 tblsp fish sauce
2 tsp water
1 tsp garlic and red chilli, pounded
Put lime juice and sugar in a bowl and stir to dissolve, add fish sauce, water and garlic and chili mix.
A perfect starter that never goes out of fashion!