Spring Rolls

By request, our sweet Thai friend made spring rolls during the Kauai Thai cooking lesson (after diplomatically telling us that spring rolls are Vietnamese). We students wanted to learn how to work with the rice paper wrappers that contain the filling (and eat the spring rolls of course).

I never thought about the roll wrappers, except to enjoy dipping them at the beginning of a Thai restaurant meal, till I watched how it is done. A reader commented that she loved to make them but they always fell apart. And so did mine, in spite of standing next to the expert who produced perfect, nearly translucent packages. (She deftly swept my worst attempt on to her own plate.)

Wanting to be a better wrapper, I plan to try on my own. Getting ready I looked to Deborah for a sauce recipe. One she suggests is just dried mustard and water. Another called for Asian chili oil, peanuts, sugar, red wine vinegar, and water. Unable to find Asian chili oil at the Co-op, I bought a bottle of dipping sauce. (We bought sauce in the islands also – real sauce will be another lesson.)

What fills your spring rolls is up to you. I have Savoy cabbage and carrots cut very fine – tiny broken matchstick size (I’m going to work on the cutting also – my carrots not nearly as precise and delicate as should be), baby broccoli, no basil this time of year, new spinach or arugula leaves will serve. These spring rolls look back a little to winter, so I’ll sauté a few mushrooms and shallots as we did in Hawaii, and add a red pepper and Serrano chili I happen to have.

To add an egg to spring rolls, you make an egg “pancake” of sorts. Use one egg lightly beaten, a small skillet with olive oil, don’t stir, just let it cook flat, then flip to finish. Remove with a spatula and break into bite-size pieces.

To prepare the wrapper, our tutor taught us to bring water to a boil in a kettle. Then, using a plate with a lip, place one wrapper on the plate and gently pour hot water over it for a few seconds till the wrapper softens.

Around the wrapper plate place small bowls of ingredients, and, working one wrapper at a time, make it pliable. Then quickly lift the wrapper out of the water onto a clean towel, and place a pinch of each ingredient in the middle. You wrap by turning up one side, then another, and then the ends – stretching slightly, wrapping tightly and neatly – or not.

Even with less than perfect wrapping they’ll be good!

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