It's always a pleasure when I discover that foods I previously thought beyond me are actually not that challenging. Yes, some of the mystery is lost, but it's but it's a fair price to pay to have all the salad rolls I can eat.
It's been dreadfully hot here in Portland so when a friend offered me both an air conditioned space in which to hang out for the day and lunch I knew I'd gotten lucky. She made a yummy peanut noodle salad (a warm weather standby around here and I'll get a recipe up one of these days) and a bunch of Vietnamese style salad rolls. I've always found the diaphanous wrappers quite intimidating but after watching her work I realize it's something I can handle. After all, I can make my own cheese, so surely I can do anything!
This morning we walked over to the Hong Phat market for supplies. I'd thought the wrappers were rice paper but what I ended up getting was made of tapioca flour, as were the noodles. I spent some time slicing and chopping to set up my assembly line:
I was delighted to find that as long as I worked quickly, the rolls came together easily and stayed stuck. It takes a bit of practice to become familiar with the wrappers, but they come thousands to a package so you can afford to toss a few as you improve.
I used mixed greens from my garden. The speckled lettuce was lovely, but I really liked the bite of tiny mustard greens. One child nixed the peanuts and another whined about the avocado but it won't be long before the darlings can simply make their own custom salad rolls.
You'll want a sauce or two for dipping. I always love sweet chili sauce, and one of the kids decided to give some commercial honey-garlic sauce a try which wasn't bad. I think something involving fish sauce and lime juice would be traditional and a quick, spicy peanut sauce would be tasty as well.
The best part? No heat, apart from quickly boiling the noodles and the hot water for the wrappers which was really nothing. I'm looking forward to experimenting with these rolls as summer progresses and the markets offer new possibilities.
You'll find my novice recipe here.