Student food blog: Vietnamese-inspired rice-paper rolls

Sophie EdmondsHi there, I was walking back from the gym last weekend absolutely starving and planning to the last crumb what I was going to have for dinner that night. I was tossing up between getting Velvet or getting some pad Thai when I suddenly had this epic craving for rice-paper spring rolls.

From that point I knew I had to make them. They were so delicious I decided to share them here with you.

Fresh spring rolls use rice paper, soaked in hot water, filled with lots of finely sliced fresh vegetables and whatever meat you want. They are basically the Vietnamese equivalent of a burrito. You fill them up, wrap them, dip them in some sauce and devour them one at a time.

We usually sit around the table with a communal plate of fillings and make them one at a time. It is a really cool way to have dinner that involves everyone. Although in saying that, when I made these the other night I was by myself. Sharing them with friends is way more fun.

The fillings I used for these ones were vermicelli noodles (thin rice noodles), carrot, red cabbage, fresh coriander leaves, alfalfa sprouts and snow pea shoots, and chicken. You can add whatever you want into them. I also recommend red capsicum, cucumber and peanuts.

The idea is to make the rolls aesthetically pleasing by filling them with awesome vibrant colours, so the more colour the better. Plus, haven't you heard that you need to eat a rainbow?

For this dish you may have to venture down the international aisle or to your local Asian supermarket to get ingredients such as rice paper, kecap manis, sesame oil and oyster sauce. It may seem like a bit of an investment getting all these strange-sounding sauces but they keep for ages and always come in handy when cooking other Asian-inspired meals.

The rice paper and rice noodles come in huge packs so cost per serve is very low.

So how about giving these a go? They are super-healthy and a nice fresh change from the old mashed potato and stodgy winter foods.

Let's do this, shall we?

Vietnamese-inspired rice-paper rolls
(serves 4)

Fillings:

400g chicken breast or chicken tenderloins (I treated myself to some tenderloins, because I'm worth it)
2 carrots, julienned (very very thinly sliced carrot sticks about 3mm thick)
2 cups of very thinly sliced red cabbage1 packet of salad sprouts (those wee plastic containers that contain both alfalfa and snow pea shoots)
¼ cup fresh coriander leaves
2 bundles of vermicelli noodles
24-32 small rice-paper rounds (as in 6-8 per person)

Marinade for chicken:

2 Tbsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Dipping sauce:

⅓ cup sweet chilli sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice (or you could just buy sweet chilli and lime sauce)

Method

Slice your chicken into thin pieces the size of your index finger (a girl's index finger if you have massive hands). This is a good length as the piece of chicken should run the entire length of your roll.

Place the chicken pieces in a bowl, pour in all the marinade ingredients, stir to coat then leave to sit while you get everything else ready.

Thinly slice your carrot and cabbage. You can use whatever you have in your fridge really. Red capsicum adds a really good colour. Place all your vegetable fillings on a nice plate: presentation is key.

Cook your chicken in a hot frying pan. Once cooked, place the chicken on the plate and spoon the residual sauce from the frying pan over the top of it. This sauce is really good so you don't want to waste it.

Boil the kettle, snap your vermicelli bundles in half (otherwise the strands can be very long and difficult to manage), place them in a small saucepan full of boiling water and cook for a few minutes until they are soft. Drain and place in a bowl. Toss some sesame oil through them so they don't all stick together.

Place boiling water in a shallow dish large enough to submerge your rice paper. I used one of my sandwich cake tins, which was perfect.

Gather around the table and start assembling!The secret to assembly is not to be too greedy: overfilling leads to a very messy disaster. If you want more, just make another roll.

Dip your rice paper into the hot water for about 7-10 seconds. Shake off the excess water and pop it on your plate nice and flat.

I usually start with the vermicelli; place a small pile, perhaps the size of a table tennis ball in the centre towards one edge. Spread it out so it goes lengthways down the rice paper. Line up the other fillings next to and on top of the vermicelli.

Now for the folding. Start by folding the bottom edge of the rice paper (the one your tail of filling points to) up and over, like a burrito.

Get one of the side sections and fold that over the filling. Fold the last side-flap over the rest of the roll. Now it should look like a cylinder with one end folded up. If my instructions aren't very clear (I think I am starting to confuse even myself) go and Google "how to roll a rice paper spring roll" or something similar. There are a few ways to do so, so get creative.

Dip your newly formed spring roll into your dipping sauce and devour!Delicious aren't they?

Then repeat the process until you are full.

I love these so much that I am going to make them again tonight!

Enjoy!
Sophie