Here is another recipe as a part of my "Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Celebrating Mardi Gras, with Vietnamese Flair" post!
Summer Rolls (Goi Cuon)
1 pkg of 15 to 20 rice paper wrappers
1 head of tender lettuce, such as red leaf lettuce
1 lb of mung bean sprouts
1 lb of cooked Creole shrimp (or 20 shrimp)
1 bundle of Chinese flat-leaf chives (these are not the traditional chives you see in the regular markets)
1 bundle of mint
1 bundle of basil
nuoc cham dressing, for serving
Just as a note, this ingredients list is based on my family's preference! You can add traditional Vietnamese herbs such as rau ram, and other vegetables and proteins, such as julienned carrots, tofu, boiled eggs, pickled daikon, baked fish, thinly sliced meat, and slivers of cucumber. Also, many people like to add vermicelli rice noodles too, but I don't really because I feel that there is enough carb substance in the wrapper. But really, the sky is the limit! Also, I use nuoc cham (a fish sauce salad dressing) as the dipping sauce, but you can use a mixture of hoisin sauce, peanut butter, crushed peanuts, and a bit of hot water for a delicious peanut dipping sauce.
Now, onto the assembly! First, you want to briefly dip the thin rice paper in warm water. Then, put it on a plate and wait for it to moisten. It helps to have several "holding" plates to hold the rice paper as it becomes pliable. Then, when the brittle paper has become malleable, in the middle to lower region of the wrapper, place the shrimp face down first. (Some people like to cut their shrimp in half, lengthwise, so put the outer shrimp portion facing the wrapper.) You want the shrimp to show through the thin and translucent rice paper wrapper, so the shrimp placement is key. Next, add your other ingredients, being careful not to overfill the wrapper and leaving the sides bare. Don't fill too closely to the sides, because you want to fold the sides over, like a burrito. Add a little bit of each ingredient.
When you have filled the rolls to your heart's delight, then fold the sides inward (like the picture), similar to a burrito. If you so desire, add a long chive stem (that will protrude through the summer roll), for decorative effect. Then, begin rolling tightly, using your fingers to firmly squeeze the filling and using the skin of the summer roll to adhere to itself.
You should get something beautiful, that looks like this:
And if you don't succeed at first, don't fret! You can combine the carnage from the "mistake rolls" as a delicious salad for later. Practice makes perfect!
I hope you enjoy this traditional Vietnamese recipe, with a New Orleans-style addition!