Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Show You How: Summer Rolls

This story has two parts, but it really started from a blog post on vegetarian summer rolls. The picture accompanying it was the messiest, most kakio bundle of hot mess. This blogger may have gotten the recipe right, but the art of summer rolling and what the bundle should look like was a little lost on them.

Story 1:There was a show on the Food Network titled How To Boil Water with Tyler Florence (now on The Great  Food Truck Race) and some blonde gal who was just a drama major. Tyler would show her how easy it was to cook fabulous dishes even if she didn't know how to cook.

It actually was a silly show. It seemed so basic. But now that we're on this new journey, I can't rely on my food memories to cook. I realize that I spent a lot of time in the kitchen absorbing from my grandma and my mom, but this kind of cooking is totally new to me, so I feel like the blonde girl on the stool.

Story 2: We took the kids to Canada one summer and we were coming out of a pretty busy parking structure. We had to turn left, but there were three lanes of fast moving traffic to get through and it was a little mission impossible. This man behind us kept honking his horn, but we couldn't go anywhere. Suddenly, he went into the entry only lane, went around us, and as he passed my window he yelled out in a very thick Chinese accent, "I SHOW YOU HOW!!" - and then proceeded to stick his car into traffic forcing the cars to stop until he could make his left turn.

Whenever Big Spazz and I have to figure something out, and one of us gets it, that's been our mantra, "I show you how!"in that same thick accent.

I figure I'm not the only one who doesn't know the inside scoops for cleaning the ho'io so that there's no slime, or making a decent summer roll that won't fall apart, so recipes are great, but sometimes, I'm the blond on the stool so if I don't write it down, someone is always going to have to "show me how," most times Big Spazz. I keep wanting him to apply for Next Food Network Star but he hasn't figured out his point of view yet.

Vegetarian summer rolls - the best thing about summer rolls is the taste explosion that happens in your mouth from a squishy, transparent bundle. You get the gelatinous noodles and the gummy wrapper hiding crunchy pieces of cucumber and bean sprouts, and then the strong herbal smell/tastes of the thai basil, cilantro and mint. It's almost as if you face planted in a forest, but in a good way.

My first solo attempt, though, was the same hot mess I saw on the other blog.
I did one thing right and two things wrong:
The right - got all my "guts" cut into the right size pieces and put into containers for easy building.

  • green onions split in half, sliced and flattened to size
  • shiitake mushrooms - softened in hot water and sauteed with some garlic and vegetarian oyster sauce (not too much)
  • Japanese cucumbers cut into thin slices to size
  • bean thread, cooked and drained (not long rice)
  • bean sprouts, blanched
  • cilantro, chopped
  • thai basil
  • mint
  • large pieces of green lettuce to use as the base
  • warm water for my rice paper wrappers
The wrong -
1.  The rice paper wrappers should only be wet in the warm water. Soaking it for even 15 seconds will make it too flimsy and you'll have rips in the paper (the picture is of Big Spazz trying to salvage my first and second attempts)

2.  According to Big Spazz, it's actually easier if you don't put the bundle in the middle (like a burrito), but put it at one end (like sushi).
Rice paper wrapper should go in just to wet it,  then put it on the cutting board and press it down in a circular motion until it gets soft.

When putting the bundle together, place the green leaf near the bottom, but not too close to the bottom or sides. Have everything fit onto the base by building up, then roll and tuck sides in.

When making a lot, separate the layers with damp paper towels so they don't stick together.

We found this super addictive vegetarian oyster sauce at the Asian market (it's called mushroom sauce) - yum

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