These homemade spring rolls were not my triumphant foray into Vietnamese cuisine. In the past, my rule of thumb for most asian foods has always been, just go out and buy it from someone else. This holds especially true for steamed pork buns (any dim sum really), lo mein (because I like it too greasy to stomach making it for myself–ignorance is bliss), and fresh spring rolls. I was hoping to change that last one, but I am sad to report that I have not. I can get these faster, cheaper, and worlds better in a matter of 15 minutes or a connection or two on public transport.
I really honestly thought I was going to nail this one. I went to Whole Foods and bought pretty much every fresh herb they sell, got some rice paper and sprouts and carrots and was like, this is going to HAPPEN.
But so quickly it just became another food-metaphor for my life: poorly-planned, slipshod, and jury-rigged to the point of absurdity. Like: I wanted a peanut-y dipping sauce and remembered (excitedly) that I had some peanuts in a bag way back in my cupboard. But those peanuts had the freshness leeched from them long ago, so instead I used an on-the-go single serving packet of maple-flavored almond butter. In hindsight, what. was. i. thinking. Maple-flavored? But, you know, it was close enough for me, like it always is, and didn’t work out, like it never does.
I am also apparently a terrible spring roll wrapper, despite having an (apparently unwarranted) awesome sense of hand-self-esteem. I just kept breaking the wrapper or it stuck to me or the carrots tumbled out. I have to say, there was a glimmer of promise in there somewhere. I’m not done with this, I don’t think. Maybe next time I’ll go for shrimp or tofu (for more flavor) or actually spend some time on the sauce or buy Thai basil instead of Italian. I’ll be back, like I always am, seeking acceptance from things that don’t have the capacity to ever accept me, like I always do.
Fresh Spring Rolls
adapted from ones I had in restaurants and thought I could reproduce
serves 1 (alllllll byyyy myyyyy seeeeeeeeeeeeelf)
2 rice paper rounds
about a quarter-diameter bunch of rice vermicelli
6 or 7 dried shiitakes, rehydrated in some boiled water for 5 minutes, then sliced
1 carrot, matchsticked
fresh basil, chopped
fresh cilantro, chopped
fresh mint, chopped
green onion, chopped
peanut butter (chunky)
Boil a small pot of water and cook the vermicelli for about 3 minutes. Shock with cold water and then drain.
In a large, wide bowl full of warm-hot water, submerge the rice paper round until soft (about 30 sec). Lay on a plate and mound on your ingredients in the center in the proportions you see fit.
Mix a few tablespoons of hoisin sauce, about a tablespoon of soy sauce, and a tablespoon of peanut butter. (I bet you could add garlic and some brown sugar to great success, but what the hell do I know?)