Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mint 2.0: Rice Paper Rolls

Yesterday was Memorial Day. Do and I fully intended to go to Arlington National Cemetery, both to pay our respects and to appreciate the full magnitude of both the day and the place. It's apparently the thing to do on Memorial Day in this town. A freakin' convention of Motorbikers pour into town to be there, the President shows his face, etc. The cemetery even holds a special 3x year ceremony in the heat of the sun for mad dogs and English tourists who have a taste for pomp and circumstance.

We never made it. It was too damn hot and sunny. And Do refused to wear sunblock or to strip down to cooler clothing. We're talking Memorial Day at Arlington Cemetery, he didn't want to sh
ow up in a t-shirt. So we missed it. We spent the day on computers in a coffeeshop and then cleaning the house. It was okay. A little bittersweet, but okay.

2 weeks until Do leaves for California, 3.5 until me and my Dad start our grand coast-to-coast roadtrip.

The big overachieving success of the weekend were these Vietnamese rolls. I'd clipped the recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, pretending that I'd be cool enough to follow-through but speculating that, really, the recipe would be another long term resident in my clippings folder. Along with the recipes that call for unfindable ingredients or 2-days worth of prep work.

Well, the recipe does involve a lot of prep work. Some less onerous than I'd feared: we picked up a package of grated coconut (so much for the 'fresh' part. You pick your battles), all the greens and peppers can be finely diced in the food processor, and the rice paper was surprisingly easy to find (Whole Foods) and to use (dunk each piece in warm water for 3 seconds before using). However, the recipe cavalierly calls for peeled, cooked shrimp... and Do finds pre-frozen seafood not worth eating. So I got my first experience peeling, deveining, and sautéing shrimp. The deveining part was particularly...exotic.

The end product was surprisingly refreshing and light, even though we probably wolfed down two servings each. There was that sea-taste, and the green crunch, and the delicate rice paper-fresh mint combination. We ended up adding whole mint leaves to the outside of each roll, to maximize that refreshing, summery flavor. It was lovely, really. Perfect for a weekend summer lunch. There was much self-satisfied 'I actually made that!' head-swelling going on. Mission accomplished; recipe conquered.

The catch, as we discovered 24 hours later, is that leftover rolls lose a lot of their fresh flavor. The zesty dipping sauce helps cover that somewhat, but they're still better the first time around. Since the technique itself (minus the shrimp) isn't particularly hard or time-consuming, it'll be interesting to experiment with different innards. The possibilities of stuffed rice paper rolls now appear endless...

Given that this was a victory over an intimidating clipped recipe, I'm sending
this over to Ruth's Kitchen Experiment's Bookmarked Recipes, a (somewhat)new weekly event that could sure help us get through our giant file folder of magazine clippings!

Shrimp and Coconut Rolls (Bon Appetit)

Makes about 15 rolls, serves 3-4 as a meal
  • 10 oz peeled cooked shrimp, cut into 1/4- to 1/3-inch pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups thinly sliced iceberg lettuce (about 1/4 large head)
  • 1 1/4 cups finely grated peeled fresh coconut
  • 1/2 unpeeled English hothouse cucumber, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 6 teaspoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam), divided
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons sugar, divided
  • 3 teaspoons minced seeded red or green serrano chiles, divided
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint leaves (N: try whole leaves, and more of them)
  • 15 8- to 9-inch-diameter rice paper rounds (spring roll wrappers)


  • Combine shrimp, lettuce, coconut, cucumber, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 4 teaspoons fish sauce, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons chiles, green onion, and mint in large bowl.
  • Moisten kitchen towel. Squeeze out excess moisture and lay towel flat on work surface. Fill large bowl with warm water. Following the directions on the package, submerge 1 wrapper in water until beginning to soften, about 20 seconds (mine took 3 seconds). Place on damp towel. Place 1/4 cup shrimp mixture in 3-inch long strip down center of wrapper. Fold in sides of wrapper over filling, then roll up tightly, enclosing filling. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. [DO AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with damp paper towels, and refrigerate. Let rolls stand at room temperature 10 to 15 minutes before serving.]
  • Mix 1/2 cup lime juice, 2 teaspoons fish sauce, 4 teaspoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon chiles in small bowl. Serve rolls with dipping sauce.


Ginny said...

Looks good...I love those kind of rolls! I went to the Nats game yesterday...although unintentionally, seemed like a good way to spend memorial day...but it was really really hot!!!!!!!!!!

noble pig said...

Oh these look so wonderful and fresh. I just love a good Spring roll. Thanks for teasing me with this.

Ramona said...

I adore spring rolls and need to get good at making them myself-which gets me thinking-I MUST get my knives sharpened for the knife skills needed to prep them.

That Girl said...

See you're part of the collective blogger subconscious. It's spring roll week!

Psychgrad said...

Spring roll...old orange in my fridge....spring roll....old orange. Ok - I'll eat your leftover spring rolls, even if they aren't as good as what they were fresh.

Kevin said...

Those rolls look really good. I like the sound of the shrimp, coconut and mint combo.

giz said...

Bravo guys!!! Psychgrad and I made these a while back and you're right, the prep is the toil. Once you get the hang of how long to leave the rice paper in the water and the touch of working with them, it's pretty okay .. as long as you don't let them stick together.

Ruth Elkin said...

Hey, great entry for BR!!!! I'm absolutely loving these!!!

melissa said...

I love spring rolls. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I go to this pho place near my work once a week and get three shrimp spring rolls every time. There's another spot where they make them with grilled pork or grilled beef strips in them. So awesome. I need to figure out how to make them for myself like you guys did.

Molly said...

Mmmmmmmm, spring rolls. I love just about any food wrapped in just about any other food, including spring rolls of any variety. I took one look at my computer screen and I am embarassed to admit that I may have actually licked my computer monitor.

White On Rice Couple said...

Great job on these rolls! We saw the recipe too and will try the coconut addition.
We teach many of these springroll (rice paper roll) cooking classes and have seen many, many a rolls! You're look like one of the better rolls!

kat said...


Johanna said...

I've only made these once but afterwards thought a damp towel might prevent the preparation bench swimming in water. Glad to see this works.

I can't get excited about shrimp rolls but I like the idea of coconut in these. If you are ever trying to make some different ones as we did (some veg and some meat) we used leaves like your mint ones on the veg rolls to distinguish them and that worked very well!