I've become a fan of rice paper rolls. Easier to make than you might think, they look great and are very versatile. The rolls provide a thin wrap for the filling of your choice; the rice paper has a slightly chewy texture; opaque, you get a pretty good idea of what's inside; think pita pocket with less calories! Rice paper has little taste of its own.
Firstly, ROLLING. There are 3 basic shapes.
- the 'cigar' shape is made like this:
- the 'parcel' shape is made in a similar fashion, BUT start with a square rather rectangular gob of filling and roll up each side equally
- the 'open' style is made like the cigar, but start with the filling in a rectangle that touches one edge of the circle of rice paper. Fold left side toward centre, bottom side toward top, and right side toward centre to seal, leaving one end open at the top. See here:
Another way to make small opens is to do cigars and then cut them in half (at a snazzy angle) to expose the delectable and attractive fillings, voila.
Typical Asian-style fillings include
- vegetables: carrots, yam (jicama), red pepper, chinese cabbage, kang kong, green paw-paw, cucumber
- zingy bits: garlic, onion, chilli
- fillers: vermicelli
- protein: tofu, tempeh, nuts, sunflower seeds
- live spices: (Thai) basil leaf, mint leaf, spring onion, coriander, rocket, sprouts
Non-traditional fillings: whitlof, purple cabbage, grated parsnip, slivered almonds, julienned summer squash or zucchini, celery leaves, refried beans, snow peas, raisins, pickled anything, leftover cooked vegetables, etc.
Otherwise you go with whatever you like, don't you? The thing is you can do a bit of a cross-over between stuff you would put in a bowl salad and stuff you would put in a bread roll. Traditional fillings are mostly raw or only lightly cooked; you want the end result to have some crunch about it.
PAUSE, DURING WHICH BLOG ENTRY IS ILLUMINATED BY PHOTO OF TODAY'S LUNCH FEATURING 2 PARCELS, 2 CIGARS AND 1 OPEN ROLL:
This is a typical kind of dipping sauce to have them with:
Otherwise tweak it how you like. Sometimes I just put a splodge - that's a technical term some of you beginners might not know - of sweet chilli sauce inside the roll itself and that's enough for me. These fillings go well with peanuts so a gloppet - another technical term, I'm convinced of that - of peanut butter works great too.
Serve at room temperature. Hence can be prepared beforehand if necessary. Think lunch, lunchbox, healthy and neat-o party snack, dinner entree, etc. If you do the cigar shapes you can tie them up with a chive for an extra flourish (they don't need it to hold together, the rice paper gets tacky and stays stuck just fine on its own). Note: if making rolls for a platter, try to not have them touching or they will stick together like tax fraud to dodgy accountants.
Cheap! A packet of 30 costs me $2. They're the large-ish size, about 22cm diameter. For a man, 5 makes a lunch. For a woman maybe 3. Hence 1 packet goes a long way. No need to keep in fridge, they are dry goods. There are different sizes so if you want to make delicate canape-style rolls that have just a sliver of this and that inside get the ones that are about as big as a bread roll plate.
Each rice paper sheet/wrapper (22cm diameter) is 23 calories, 4.5g carbohydrate, 5g protein, 0g fat. Win!
This guy suggests using them in place of nori for those who don't like the taste of seaweed: