Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not for Thanksgiving: Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Thanksgiving is next week and I am a very sad girl because for the third year in a row I’ll be missing my Mom’s delicious t-giving food. I love most everything about Thanksgiving – drawing up the menu, making a shopping list, doing the big shop, helping Mom in the kitchen, making the table look pretty, seeing my aunt, uncle and cousin, eating so much food it hurts, and passing out without attempting the dishes.

I don’t love getting dressed up for the holidays. Never have. Fights used to occur over what my sister and I would try to wear; we favoured jeans, tees, maybe a cardi, but inevitably we were sent back to our rooms to try and find something a little more ‘festive’ and ‘nice’ to wear. We don’t do dressing up for holidays very well. There might even be a pact afoot between us and Cousin to have holidays all in our pajamas, with minimal fanciness. Maybe.

We'd still have the same food though.  Even a power outage won't stop us from having our traditional Thanksgiving food.  (True story!)

Right now, every American foodblogger and their monther is and has been sharing Thanksgiving recipes (click here if you still need some ideas, there are 101), and I wonder how many of them will be used by other people. See, my family has a pretty set menu of culinary demands when it comes to Turkey Day and we rarely deviate from it, and I kind of have the feeling that most Americans are like us.  But that doesn't stop me from wanting to try new kinds of Thanksgiving, just not on the actual day.  I almost feel like I need a whole week of Thanksgivings just to try all of the foodcoma-inducing recipes that are flooding my Google Reader right now. Dear Mr. Obama, could you please make Thanksgiving last a whole week? Worldwide?

Meanwhile in New Zealand it's all windy and sunny and the flowers are blooming and I just feel like skipping down the street with a basket of freshly-baked goodies under my arm and singing at the top of my lungs. Except I don’t sing, or skip, so it would be more like me just walking down the street with (let’s be honest here) a plastic Farmer’s bag with something bad for you in it, grumbling about having to go to work in an office instead of being outside.  Which actually does happen, just about every morning really, because I'm (a) not a morning person, and (b) sitting in an enclosed box all day while the sun is taunting you can really suck.  And then there are the people out on the harbour sailing and kayaking and I just wish I had a robot that looked like me to do my job so I could go out and join those people in their boats.

Boaty people at the Boatshed doing all kind of annoying boaty things in the sunshine.  Boaty.
When I was a kid, I declared I’d never have an office job – I would have a job outside if it killed me. But then I realised that if I wanted to make more than minimum wage I couldn’t be a lifeguard forever, and there’s also this thing called Winter that kind of makes working outside a bit less glamorous than previously thought. I’m still considering a career change though, I hear being a Woman About Town is exciting!

Geez, it’s like Random Tangent Day in Christina’s head. Are you following all this?

Please excuse my creepy pink fingers.  It's the filter, I swear!
So because the holidays are coming and that means you need a lot food floating about the place to feed your guests, and because the weather is glorious and I'm guessing that probably means you want to spend as little time as possible slaving over a hot stove, I give you my favourite no-cook (and therefore no hot oven to overheat you) appetiser – Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Or, around my house, Spling Lolls. We’re silly.

These spring rolls have a great fresh flavour, which combined with the mint and a hint of the fish sauce, the crunch of the cucumber and peanuts, and squidginess of the wrapper makes for very fun eating.  It's also a great way to get people (husbands, children, sailors suffering from scurvy) to eat salad without them realising it!  Who can't resist finger food that looks like....spring rolls. 

A word of caution, however: these are a bit labour-intensive, so get some other people involved in the assembly bit. And for heaven’s sake, give them some wine while they do it. Unless they’re children, then something highly-sugared should get them through.

These spring rolls are enjoying the sunshine, but the sweet chilli sauce is being all moody over in the dark.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
  • Packet of rice-paper spring roll wrappers (available in Asian supermarkets and specialty shops)
  • Vermicilli noodles
  • Half a head of cabbage – green or purple, or both if you’re fancy
  • One carrot
  • Bean sprouts, a big handful
  • Cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks
  • Fish sauce
  • Fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • Peanuts, chopped
  • Sweet chilli sauce for dipping
  1. Chop up your cabbage into thin slivers and shred the carrot.  Boil the vermicilli for a few minutes, just until they're pliable.  Drain off the water.
  2. Chuck the cabbage, carrot, noodles and bean sprouts into a wok or other large vessel on medium heat.  Splash (not douse, not drown, but splash) some fish sauce over the veggies, about two quick turns around the pan should do it.  Cook the mixture down for a few minutes, then transfer to a bowl.
  3. Chop up the mint and the peanuts and set out in bowls for your assembly line.  Cut cucumber into matchsticks and set out on a plate.
  4. Grab a bowl big enough to submerge your spring roll wrappers and fill it with hot water, but not too hot that you can't stick your hands in it. 
  5. Spring roll construction: stick the spring roll wrappers about halfway in the hot warm and let it soak for 15-30 seconds, turning the wrapper every 10 seconds or so.  The hot water turns the wrapper all soft and pliable.  Rub your fingers against the wrapper to help the wrapper soften. 
    1. Lay out flat on a clean plate.  Pick up a handful of filling mixture and spread in a line along the top hemisphere of the circular wrapper.  (If the wrapper were an America-centric map of the world, you'd be spreading it over the good old USA.) 
    2. Place a few cucumber sticks along the length of the filling, and sprinkle peanuts and mint over the mixture.  Fold the top of the wrapper over the mixture and tuck under.
    3. Fold the sides over, toward the middle.
    4. Roll the filling down to the other edge of the wrapper, using your fingers to tightly tuck everything under along the way.  You want the spring roll to be quite tight, not floppy and loose, because let's face it, no one likes a limp.....spring roll.
    5. The wrapper will stick to itself.  Serve with sweet chilli sauce!

How do you like my diagrams, eh?  Some fancy work in Microsoft Word goin on there!


  1. I'm LOVING your diagrams! Very origami-like. And re: Thanksgiving - maybe start your own Kiwi Thanksgiving tradition? Invite friends and Kiwi family over and cook up an American storm for them! :-)

  2. I really like your graphs for folding the rice paper rolls, I love making them (yes, even by myself) but it is a bit difficult to roll and photograph the step by step actions, I tried here http://alessandrazecchini.blogspot.com/2011/02/vegan-thai-salad-rolls.html but not as clear as the drawings :-).

    Well, happy Thanksgiving, it is hard to be far away, maybe you will be able to be there next year??


  3. You're very clever! YUMMY looking food!! :) Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. No really, now I have met you I can see you madly skipping and singing around town with you bag of goodies :0) I'm with you on that woman about town job too if there are any extra vacancies!

  5. I love the diagrams! And the random train of thought :)

    Even though Thanksgiving is from a completely different culture to mine, I wish there were more opportunities for me to eat pumpkin pie...

  6. Love Vietnamese spring rolls - one of my favourite summer foods. And yes, love your cute little diagrams too :-)
    Sue xo

  7. Awesome diagrams - very clever :)
    I will have to try these out!


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