Marika and I had a trashy TV marathon over the weekend. The TV part is really just an excuse to get together - the real focus of these gatherings tends to be conversation, wine, and food. For the latter, I had been thinking that Thai sounded good. But I haven't been impressed with our last few tries of the local takeout places. So I decided to make my own.
I love spring rolls. It's surprising, now that I think about it, that it's taken me this long to try making them. Part of the issue is that I was never sure where to find the wrappers - this time, for example, I went to Whole Foods thinking they'd be in the refrigerated section with the tofu. I was briefly excited when I spotted something that looked like what I was seeking. My excitement turned to disappointment when I realized what I was holding were egg roll wrappers - suitable for deep frying, but not for the fresh healthy rolls that I was picturing in my head. Then a thought struck me. Rice wrappers probably start out in a similar form as rice noodles. I headed for the Asian Foods aisle.
Bingo! A quick scan revealed two types of rice wrappers that would be perfect for spring rolls. One package contained 30 6" rounds. The other was larger and square. The circles looked like about the right size, so I selected those. (In retrospect, the larger squares might have been easier for a novice like me, but hey, I like a challenge!)
Anyone who's made spring rolls before (unless perhaps some have a spring roll making gene that I'm missing?) will appreciate that there's a certain art to making them look edible. My first few attempts bore little resemblance to the spring rolls of restaurants. But through trial and error, I started understanding how pliable I needed the wrappers to be and thus how long to leave them in the warm water before trying to roll them around veggies (the magic number was 11 seconds for my wraps, which got a little longer as the water temperature cooled). I learned how much filling was the right amount (not so little that the wrapper ends up loose, not so much that the veggies stick out or the wrapper breaks). I found it quite fun trying to make the perfect spring roll. I think it's a skill that will keep improving as I use it.
Though our spring rolls didn't look quite like what you'd get from your local Thai restaurant, the fresh taste and effort that had gone into them made up for it. We ate ours dipped in peanut sauce (add a little more water than called for in the recipe if needed to get to desired dipping consistency). Here's what I did:
Veggie Spring Rolls
1/2 c. bean sprouts
1/2 small head savoy cabbage, chopped
1/2 c. carrots, julienned
3 scallions, sliced (including green parts)
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. tamari
12 rice paper wraps
Mix all ingredients* except wraps in a medium bowl. Make first roll by soaking wrap in hot water for 10-15 seconds, then rolling about 3 Tbsp. of filling in the wrap. Repeat with remaining wraps. Finished wraps can be stored in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.
*My filling ingredients were the combination of a few different recipes I found online. As I often do, I picked and chose the parts that sounded good about each and meshed them together.