This how to make Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls
I arrived at around 8 am and the list was on the prep bench. The kitchen was already hot and breakfasts were leaving the pass carried on the strong forearms of the wait staff who were administering coffee & advice to those waiting in line that it would be a 20 minute wait before they got a table. Out on the terrace the sun was in full flight over the sails of the Opera House. Saturday mornings were very hectic. Along with a full restaurant for breakfast and lunch there were the Saturday night functions to complete. It was going to be a very long day.
The prep list consisted of about 10 catering jobs. All of them had rice paper rolls. 100,180,500, 50, 80, 100, 300, 25, 30, 150. Unfortunately I was on this section today. The prep list read…10 functions today with a total of 1515 rolls. Yep, you read that correctly, thousands of rice paper rolls. One shift rolling and the next serving them from a makeshift kitchen in someone’s garage. Its a glamorous job. They have to be rolled and ready to go by the time the vans start to load out and leave along with any other canapé you may have on your list. So I want you to remember this when you start to roll these ones for yourself. At the time I worked for Rockpool catering, and I’ve used this recipe ever since (thanks Neil Perry). Its a special recipe, they have more inside of them than most rolls, making them extra good!
This is how to make Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls. Yours will be a breeze- of course you do get into a bit of a rhythm after about the 100th, (or perhaps it’s a coma) put aside about an hour to roll 30-50 of them, not counting vegetable prep time.
Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls
I like to julienne ( matchsticks) my vegetables so they are all about the same size. You can also do this in a food processor
- 2 cups bean sprouts approximately
- 2 carrots julienned
- 2 cups green papaya julienned or substitute Chinese cabbage
- 1 cup red capsicum julienned
- 1 bunch coriander leaves picked stalks and roots reserved
- 1 bunch mint leaves picked
- 1 bunch Vietnamese mint (picked this is very pungent and really makes a difference to the rolls)
- 1 cup shallots - green onions of finely chopped u can use Spanish onion if you prefer
- 1 cup peanuts crushed roasted unsalted and some for garnish (you can buy them in Asian stores)
- 1/2 cup fried shallots - Asian stores, these are crunchy
- 100 gm round rice paper 1 packet
- 100 gm rice noodles small packet
Dressing and dipping sauce.
- 375 ml lemon juice or 4 lemons and 2 limes squeezed. This should make about 1 1/2- 2 cups of juice
- 150 gm palm sugar 3/4 cup caster sugar
- 125 ml fish sauce 1/2 cup
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 cm ginger grated
- 1 bunch coriander well washed- roots and stems left over from above
- 2 whole red chillis
- You will need a clean tea towel and some boiling water.
- Make the dressing so it has time to sit (it can be made a day ahead, in fact it is a good idea to do this along with cutting the vegetables to save you time on the day you roll)
- Put the lemon juice into a small bowl. Add about ¼ cup of hot water to the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add ¾ of this sugar mix to the lemon juice. Add most of the fish sauce. Stir and taste. It should be a good combination of the three. It should taste salty enough to be seasoned with a good hint of sweetness and a nice whack of lemon. Continue to add bits of the sugar and fish sauce until you have a combination you like. ( If you want to add more lemon do, if you have no more lemon rice vinegar may be a good substitute, if you want more sugar once again add a bit of hot water and stir to dissolve before adding).
- Now chop the garlic, ginger, coriander roots and stems and as much chilli as you like-but keep it edible! You can chop this by hand or just toss it all the food processor and chop. Add the chopped herbs to the liquid lemon dressing mix and set aside or refrigerate till needed.
- Clean all the herbs and pick them putting them all into a bowl
- Cut all the vegetables into even slices by hand or in a food processor with an attachment. I have a mandolin that slices finely then I cut them into matchstick slices. Add them all to the herbs along with the nuts and fried shallots ( if using).
- Pour boiling water over ½ small packet of vermicelli noodles (to make about 2 cups). Sit them in the hot water till they are white and soaked through. They need to be easy to eat, not chewy. Drain well and cool down.
- Strain (straining is best) about half of the dressing into the vegetables and toss well to combine. Leave while you set up to roll.
- Toss the vegetables so they are coated in the dressing each time you roll a new batch. ( there will probably be a bit of dressing left in the bowl at the end)
- You will need: A bowl of very warm water and a clean tea towel laid out on a bench. Have a tray or container handy to put the finished rolls on. It will be best to put paper or a plastic liner between layers if they have to be stacked. keep them covered with a damp tea towel too.
- Put 3-4 rice papers at a time into the water only leaving long enough so they are soaked through. Lay them in lines not touching on the tea towel, and dip more. You should fit about 9 or so on your towel *This is the very important part. Don't over wet them they will continue to soak up water as they sit on the tea towel.
- Put a small amount of noodles on each one followed by some vegetables on all 9. Now clean your hands, and get ready to roll. Flip the side of the rice paper closest to you over the vegetables pushing down to roll them and roll half way. Fold each side in to form a pocket and then roll up completely. Sit each one on it's seem till you finish the others . Move them onto a platter or container ( platter is best). They will be very sticky and will possibly stick to each other a bit. Continue replacing some of the rice paper dipping water with some extra warm water if it cools down. If they are not over soaked they are like very sticky almost translucent rounds. After a little practise you will get the idea.
- Serve with the remaining dressing. Drain and add extra sliced chilli if you like. Can also be served with hoisin sauce and crushed peanuts or sweet chilli sauce.