vietnamese summer rolls

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This is another recipe from the cookbook I got recently. Summer rolls are an appetizer made with rice paper, a brittle opaque circle of rice flour dough that must be softened until it turns transparent. It’s then filled with cooked shrimp, Chinese roast pork, and rice vermicelli.I bought the rice paper but I made my own roast pork. Roast pork can be bought at shops in Chinatown. I had bean threads on hand so I used that instead of the vermicelli.  After trial and error, I found that the rice paper shouldn’t be completely softened or they become too difficult to handle, but the vermicelli/bean threads can be left to soak as long as possible until they become soft; the softer the better. Unlike spring rolls that are always deep fried, summer rolls are eaten fresh. As you can see from the progression in the picture, I got better at rolling once I found the secret about the rice paper.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls (adapted from Chinese Cooking and More)
Makes 12 rolls
Prep time: 45 minutes

Vietnamese dipping sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 pound medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 1/2 ounces rice vermicelli (can substitute bean threads)
12 rice paper wrappers, about 6 inches in diameter
36 whole fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 pound Chinese roast pork, sliced 1/8 inch thick (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon chopped peanuts
lime peel, optional

1.You can buy red roast pork or make your own. To make your own, marinate the pork tenderloin one night before then bake it the next day. Remove from oven to cool.
2.Prepare the Vietnamese dipping sauce and set aside.
3.Bring large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add shrimp. Simmer 1-2 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and opaque. Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. When cool, slice shrimp in half lengthwise.
4.Soften vermicelli or bean threads in a medium bowl of hot water 20-30 minutes. Drain, and cut noodles into 3 inch lengths.
5.Soften rice paper wrappers one at a time in a large bowl of warm water 30-40 seconds or until just pliable. Drain wrappers one at a time on a kitchen towel then transfer to a work surface.

Cook’s Note: If the wrapper is too soft, it will curl over on itself and it will be very hard to straighten out. So soak each wrapper until it just softens; it’s okay if the edges are slightly stiff. My work surface was a kitchen towel because I found the wrapper stuck to the paper towel. I also found that the wrapper continued to soften while it was stretched out on the kitchen towel.

6.Arrange 3 cilantro leaves in the center of the wrapper, layer with 2 shrimp halves, 2 pork slices and about 4 tablespoons the rice vermicelli/bean threads.

7.Fold bottom of wrapper up over filling. Fold in each side then roll up. Repeat steps #5 and #6.
8.Just before serving sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Garnish with lime peel if desired. Serve with Vietnamese dipping sauce.

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce: Combine 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup fish sauce, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 clove minced garlic and 1/4 teaspoon chili oil in a small bowl and mix well. Makes 1 cup.

Homemade Chinese Roast Pork (CBT Lee)
I’ve been making this recipe for years; it’s very good Chinese restaurant quality. It can be made a day before assembling the rolls then refrigerated until ready to use.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Resting time: 3-6 hours, preferably overnight
Cooking time: 35-40 minutes

2 lb pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons brown bean sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon 5 spice powder
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring

Mash brown bean sauce with a fork. Combine mashed beans and remaining ingredients in a small pot. Heat just to dissolve sugar. Pour marinade over pork. Let stand 3-6 hours in the refrigerator, turning occasionally. Bake at 350˚F/175˚C 35-40 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165˚F on an instant read thermometer. Slice and serve.

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