Lately I’ve been weirdly obsessed with rice paper rolls. Luckily for me, the Vietnamese shop “Roll’d” rapidly became the supplier for my latest addiction. It seems like every day I end up at Roll’d and walk away with those delicious parcels of yum. (I also strongly recommend their sweet potato chips, and I’m dying to try their Bao buns.)
A gluten-free friend of mine (Wendy Jensen, in fact) brought rice paper rolls to a party at my house once, many years ago, which is definitely how this entire habit-forming journey began. I attempted to make them shortly after that, but I had to go and make them “more healthy” by leaving out the vermicelli noodles. It was a disaster.
Last Thursday I ran into another friend, Meg, near Roll’d and we talked rice paper rolls. She said the brand of rice paper is essential, recommending the “pinky-purply” packet that isn’t stocked by Coles.
Today I was chatting to Brooke at church and I was contemplating putting a sauce of my own invention inside the rice paper rolls to make them neater. She said that method only works if they’re served right away—otherwise, the rolls disintegrate. Good to know!
So today, out of dinner ideas but with rice paper and vermicelli noodles (also called ‘glass noodles’, apparently*) all newly-bought on the table (thanks to Chris’ grocery shopping). . . I made rice paper rolls. And they were fantastic.**
My thermomix came in very handy, so I’ll write this as a thermomix recipe. I trust anyone who attempts it sans thermomix will find their own technique.
Obviously, this recipe is dedicated to Wendy, Meg, and Brooke.
-Vermicelli noodles (those super thin ones; pandaroo brand is good)
-Rice paper (pandaroo brand)
-1 tin coconut milk
-Half or less of a BBQ roast chicken (or other leftover/cold meat). Roughly 400gms. Chopped into bits/lengths.
-Roasted cashews (a handful)
-Snow peas or capsicum (both is too much)
-Coriander (I used dried coriander but fresh leaves look and taste great)
-Mint (as above)
-Sauces eg Hoisin, Nuoc mam (the Vietnamese one; recommended), Soy, Sweet soy sauce, or a half-half mixture of mayo and maple syrup (recommended).
- Put the coconut milk in a saucepan, add the same amount of water, and set it to boil. Boil the rice noodles for two minutes (they get soft fast, so it’s easy to push them down into the relatively small amount of milk/water) then drain and set aside to cool completely.
- Smash your cashews in the thermomix (4 seconds on 6), mix in a teaspoon of mint, and set aside (in a small bowl is nice).
- Finely chop your carrot in the thermomix (some cashew powder in the mix is fine; 6 seconds on 6, possibly in two bursts), mix in half a teaspoon of mint and a teaspoon of coriander, and set aside.
- Prep your snow peas by cutting the tops and bottoms off./Cut your cucumber into sticks.
- Use tepid water to soak and lay out two tea-towels.
- Take out 8 rice paper circles (so you can work quickly).
- There are probably better ways of doing Step 8 but this worked for me:
- Run a gentle stream of tepid water into the sink, and quickly wet (not soak) each side of your rice circles, laying them out on the tea-towels. Do this twice (they will be much floppier the second time).
- Prep all your rolls (you don’t need to hurry, but don’t wander off and leave them on the towels or they’ll dry out):
- Optional. Lay out any leaves you’re using (instead of dried herbs, like I used) on the rice paper circles.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds in a rough line across the centre of each rice paper circle (leave a few centimetres of empty rice paper at either end).
- Add 1-2 bits of snow peas/cucumber; 3-4 bits of meat, 1ish spoons of nut mixture, coupla spoons of carrot mixture, and a handful of rice noodles (you’ll need to physically pull it apart from the noodley mass because they’re so long). Basically, you want your contents to make a fat sausage shape with plenty of room all around.
- Fold up both short ends of your roll, then physically roll it up (squashing the rice noodles; they can take it). I found that it worked well to make my first fold of the roll over the top of the mixture (rather than trying to fit all the mixture into each turn of the rolling procedure). Whatever your most dodgy rice paper edge is, place the roll with that side down while you do the rest. It’ll be better ‘glued’ in about thirty seconds.
- Serve cold with dipping sauces.
If kept in the fridge, I think these are good to eat for 2-3 days.
But be warned: Although they look perfectly neat and convenient, the inevitable forces of chaos will always cause you to drop rice noodle fragments everywhere and/or helplessly mouth-flail as your rice noodle package loses all structural integrity during the last few bites. Trust me on this.
A lot of the steps can be done well in advance (the whole meal, of course, can also be done in advance and refrigerated), so it’s relatively good for people like me who can’t stand up for long. With the notable exception of Step #9.
*In Malaysia (but not, I think, Indonesia), they’re called bee hoon; in China they’re mie fen; in Thailand they’re sen mee and in Vietnam they’re bahn hoi.
**Roll’d adds a sprinkling of crispy fried onions which is pure genius. I may experiment with crushed chips in future (since I’m intolerant of onions).