Baked Spring Rolls with Spicy Dipping Sauce

I bought the Low Fat No Fat Thai cookbook (Lorenz Books, 2006) from Asia Books here in Bangkok last week. I tried two recipes so far,  and this is one of them. Unfortunately, these recipes are not kitchen-tested and I’m not quite sure the nutrition facts are trustworthy either. If I followed this recipe exactly, these baked spring rolls are supposed to be 46 calories each. But since I fooled around with the ingredients, that figure is not valid anyway. What I liked about this version of spring rolls is that it is baked, not fried. Though the result was chewy rather than crisp,  AJ asked for more. They weren’t bad. They even  look authentic.

When I make spring rolls, I use whatever ingredients are on hand. Some ingredients I’ve found that are just delicious are Chinese cabbage (Napa is recommended though regular cabbage, shredded in a food processor, will do nicely), scallions, tofu (firm, sliced into thin strips), bean sprouts, and shiitake mushrooms. If you like meat inside them, add a cup or cooked ground beef, chicken or pork, and a cup of cooked shredded crabmeat or cooked chopped shrimp. Notice I emphasize the word cooked. This cookbook neglected to mention that step in the Cha Gio or Vietnamese spring roll recipe but added that step in the Thai Spring Roll recipe. Having made spring rolls before, I knew that the meats have to be cooked before assembling the rolls or you run into the dangers of undercooked food.

Now, what, you may ask, is the difference between Chinese and Thai spring rolls? Well, very little, I should say, since the Thai borrowed the recipe from the Chinese and made it their own. The only technical difference is that the Thai roll their spring rolls in a cigar shape and of course,  like to serve them with sweet and spicy dipping sauces, whereas the Chinese prefer sweet and sour with mustard on the side.

1 cup or 1 bundle vermicelli (also called bean threads; fresh is preferred)
1 cup cloud ear mushrooms (fresh is preferred), chopped
1 cup ground pork, cooked, drained, and cooled slightly
1/2 cup grated carrot
salt and pepper to taste
sweet chili dipping sauce, optional (available from Asian supermarkets)

Egg wash
1 egg white
1 teaspoon rice bran oil (substitute sunflower or canola)
1 teaspoon water

1 package Chinese spring rolls (available from Asian supermarkets) 20-24 per package. The recipe above will make about 20 rolls.

Prepare the ingredients. If using dried vermicelli and dried cloud ear mushrooms, soak them separately in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain the bean threads and snip with kitchen scissors to 2 inch lengths. Drain the cloud ear mushrooms and chop.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Line a baking tray with parchment or silicone mat.

Fill the wrappers. In a large bowl, combine vermicelli, mushrooms, pork, and carrot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Fill a small bowl with water. To make a spring roll, separate two wrappers at a time from the package. One will tear but two will  not. Then separate the two. Spread one wrapper on the work surface and add two spoonfuls of filling. Spread it out, lengthwise. Fold up the bottom and then the sides. Roll up the wrapper. Dip your finger in the water, moisten the remaining edge, and seal. Place seam side down on a plate and continue peeling, filling, folding, and rolling.

Cook’s Tip: Dip your finger in the water and moisten the sides of the wrapper too. Fold up the bottom and then the two sides. The sides will stick together and will make it easier to roll up the wrapper.

Bake. Combine ingredients for the egg wash in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush the cylinders and ends of each spring roll with the egg wash. Turn to be sure each roll is thoroughly coated. Transfer to prepared baking tray. Bake 25 minutes, turning once halfway through baking.

Serve. Spring rolls should be served immediately with dipping sauces. Usually one is sweet and spicy and the other is spicy and sour. The chilies for the dipping sauce are traditionally pounded in a mortar and pestle.  A food processor will not achieve the same consistency but here’s a trick. Instead, I froze the chilies and rinsed them in cold water to defrost them. Then I chopped up the chilies and smashed them with the flat of a large knife, dragging the blade across them. I did this a few more times until the texture of the chilies was coarse.

View the Smilebox collage below for wrapping and rolling the spring rolls and making the nam jihm  dipping sauce.

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