Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fresh Spring Rolls

A healthy alternative to fried spring rolls, fresh spring rolls are easy to make once you get the hang of folding them. Believe me, the first few rolls I made weren't picture perfect, but they still tasted great so don't be intimidated by the finicky rice paper sheets. I made about 12 rolls, they kept relatively well stored in airtight containers, and made great lunches and after work snacks. I wouldn't keep them for more than about 5 days though as the rice paper tends to dry out and become a bit tough. Although the recipes I consulted tended to just boil the shrimp, I decided to quickly pan sear them with a few spices to add additional flavor to the rolls. I also made a few rolls without the rice noodles and added more of the other fillings instead. Less starchy and require one less ingredient, I think I may make more noodle-free rolls in the future.

Fresh Spring Rolls

1/3 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
   (alternatives: baked tofu, grilled portobello mushrooms, or grilled salmon)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
~1 teaspoon chili powder, to taste

8-12 dried rice paper rounds
1 cup bean sprouts
1 bunch mint
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch thai basil
1 red/orange/yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small red leaf lettuce
3-4 ounces rice vermicelli/bun (optional)

Ginger-Lime Sauce for dipping

-Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add the rice noodles, and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water immediately and keep covered.
-Toss the shrimp in the olive oil, paprika, and chili powder. Cook quickly in a hot skillet, turning once after 2-3 minutes and remove promptly and let cool. Do not overcook.
-Fill a large flat dish (pyrex dishes work well) with about 2 inches of hot water, as hot as you can stand is best. Heat a pot of water to refresh the dish as it cools.
-Wet a kitchen towel and lay it open on the counter. This will keep the rice paper moist as you build each the roll.
-Place a rice sheet, edge in first, into the hot water. Swish it gently, letting it wet completely, about 8-12 seconds. Remove the rice paper from the water and lay it flat on the damp towel.
-Lay 2-3 shrimp onto the center of the rice paper in a row, depending on the size of your roll. Add a small bunch of rice noodles, a small bunch of bean sprouts, a few slices of pepper, and several of each type of fresh herb to the roll, keeping the ingredients as close together and compact as possible. Top with a piece of rolled lettuce and lay one lengthwise edge of rice paper over the filling while pressing down on the filling to tightly wrap the roll. Fold in the two outer edges of the rice paper and then roll the spring roll into a cylinder. You can trim excess rice paper from the roll if your sheets are larger than you need.
- Cut each spring roll in half diagonally and serve with the ginger-lime dipping sauce.

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