Friday, April 27, 2012

Cambodian Summer Rolls

Back in December, I served tasty Vietnamese Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce, and thought I'd try this variation using vegan shrimp instead of the Gardein chicken in the former.  To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what makes this recipe 'Cambodian' as opposed to 'Vietnamese.'  All sources I found online said that the main components of a Vietnamese Roll are shrimp, rice noodles, rice paper, and herbs - which are all present here.  However, other websites pointed to the growing popularity of these rolls in Vietnam's neighboring countries, i.e. Cambodia.  So perhaps there's a certain something about the dipping sauce that earns this version the title Cambodian.  But you can forget all that back story - just roll up, dip into the tasty sauce, and enjoy.

For the rolls:
  • 6 cups water
  • 16 Sophie's Kitchen shrimp, thawed
  • 6 ounces uncooked rice noodles*
  • 12 (8-inch) sheets round rice paper
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 cups shredded red leaf lettuce
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint
For the dipping sauce:
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic
  • 1 minced garlic clove
1. To prepare the rolls, bring 6 cups water to a boil in a saucepan.  Add the shrimp and cook for 3 minutes.  Drain, and rinse with cold water.  Chill until ready to prepare the rest of the rolls, then cut each shrimp into 2 or 3 pieces, for 36 pieces of shrimp total.

2. Place the rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water; let stand for 8 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, fill a large shallow dish with cold water to a depth of 1 inch.  Place 1 rice paper sheet in the water and let stand for just 1 to 2 minutes, until soft; transfer to a flat surface.

Note: keep the remaining rice paper covered to prevent from curling up, as you work on each roll individually.

4. Spread 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce on the center of the circle.  Top with 3 shrimp pieces, about 1/4 cup rice noodles, 1/4 cup lettuce, 1 teaspoon basil, and 1 teaspoon mint.  Fold the sides of the rice paper over the filling, and roll up jelly-roll style, pressing the seam to seal.  Place, seam side down, on a platter and cover with a towel.  Repeat the procedure with the remaining rice paper and filling.

Note: you'll have the easiest time of it if you've prepped all the ingredients, and everything is lined up on your work surface.  Indeed, for recipes like this, I often work my way backwards through the list of ingredients, to make sure everything has been chopped as needed.

5. To prepare the dipping sauce, combine the soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, sugar, cilantro, lime juice, ginger, chile paste, and garlic in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Serve with the rolls. 

*Be sure to purchase thin rice noodles (vermicelli style).  The thicker variation - about as broad as linguine - would be too wide for the rice paper wrapping.

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (1 roll, about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons sauce), Calories 140 

Tasting Notes:
The dipping sauce was far and away my favorite component of this dish - wonderful flavors of soy, fresh lime, and cilantro, with the warm burn of the chile paste on the tongue at the end.  Unfortunately I found the rolls themselves to be a little bland until dipped in the sauce, despite lovely basil and mint.  For one thing, there were too many rice noodles per roll, a detriment both to taste and to the ease with which one could eat the rolls without the filling tumbling out.  I'm also not sure the lettuce really belonged in here.  If I had my way, I'd combine the Vietnamese Rolls I made last December with the dipping sauce from tonight and that might just be the perfect combo.


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