Are there foods that you suddenly have an powerful desire for? I’m sure this happens to us all, whether it is for chocolate fudge or Chex Mix (ahem). I wonder what drives those cravings. Is it simply the power of suggestion, or is there some physical or psychological need that is begging to be filled?
I started craving fresh spring rolls – with enough intensity to send me to the crowded Dekalb International Farmers Market for rice paper wrappers and Thai basil. It started with a suggestion – photos found on Pinterest. I have avoided browsing that time-pit up to now, but two friends kept posting recipes there and made me look. (Thanks LGO and TFM!) Once I got there, it was non-stop pinning of things I wanted to make – including these spring rolls from Chaos in the Kitchen. There were other inviting recipes, but the idea of spring rolls would not let me go. After being on vacation and eating indulgently, perhaps my body was telling me some crispy, raw vegetables would be a nice change. Or maybe my soul needed the promise of freshness and spring after returning to dreary, damp, cold weather.
Whatever the reason, these colorful spring rolls brightened my day and made my taste buds simply ecstatic. I was intimidated with the prospect of working with the fragile rice paper, but this photo tutorial from White on Rice Couple made it really easy. You don’t really need a recipe – just gather ingredients that you like and roll them up! If you’re looking for inspiration, here’s a start! I’m looking forward to also trying cucumber, jicama, avocado, and cabbage in the rolls.
Ingredients (for 8 rolls):
- 8 rice paper wrappers (spring roll skins)
- Lettuce leaves (Boston or butter lettuce, hard spines removed)
- Several sprigs of Thai basil (about 24 leaves). Other varieties of basil will also work.
- Small bunch of cilantro, large stems removed
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 2 carrots, julienned (I use this wonderful kitchen tool)
- Small, cooked pink shrimp (4 or 5 per roll)
“No Peanut” Sauce ingredients:
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon gluten-free tamari sauce
- 2-4 tablespoons water, or as needed for desired consistency
Okay, before you get started make sure you look at these wonderfully photographed instructions. Right here!
Prepare sauce by combining all sauce ingredients in a small bowl; stir well to combine. Adjust to taste (more hot sauce, etc.). Adjust consistency of the sauce by adding water, a tablespoon at a time. Set aside. Sauce can be stored in the refrigerator, but you may want to warm it up to room temperature for serving. (A few seconds in the microwave will help.)
Have all the spring roll filling ingredients washed and prepped before starting.
Add hot water (bath-like temperature) to a large bowl. Take one rice paper wrapper and dip it completely in the hot water for 10 seconds (or less). The paper should be wet, but still stiff. Place the paper flat on a non-porous surface.
Starting layering the other ingredients on the lower third of the rice paper. I started with the shrimp because they look nice through the paper, once rolled. Add lettuce leaves, 2 or 3 basil leaves, carrots, bell pepper, a couple sprigs of cilantro, etc. Try not to overfill the wrapper because it will be difficult to roll. (After a little practice, you’ll be able to figure out the right amount of filling. You can eat your “mistakes” right away.)
Carefully pull up the rice paper from the bottom (nearest you) and pull it over the filling. Use your fingers to tuck the filling in toward you, to make the roll tighter. Start rolling away from you. After one rotation, fold in the rice paper on the left and right sides to enclose the filling. Continue to roll until the rice paper meets at the top – it will seal itself. Set the roll aside, and cover lightly with cellophane and a damp towel.
Continue making the rest of the rolls and set them aside with the others. The wrappers will stick to each other and tear if they touch each other at first, so space them out or place cellophane between them.
They are best served immediately or within a couple of hours, while fresh. The rice paper will start getting stiff and dry pretty quickly, especially in the refrigerator. If you want to have them for a later time (within 24 hours or so), wrap each roll individually in cellophane and place in a resealable plastic bag with a dampened paper towel. I kept a few rolls overnight this way, and while not as delicate as fresh, the rice paper was still relatively soft.
Jay Farrar has been one of the leading figures in the roots music scene since he days heading up Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt. To my ears, he’s rarely sounded as good and as open as on the new Son Volt release Honky Tonk. Created as an homage to the great Bakersfield country sound of the ’60s, this record is a winner, full of fiddles and pedal steel guitar. Glorious!
Farrar and Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard teamed up to do the soundtrack to a documentary to one of my favorite books, Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur entitled One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Music From Kerouac’s Big Sur. Low-key and intriguing, it captures the book and it’s time well. Recommended.