I prefer the taste of foods that are not overly cooked and heavy tasting (yes, I know I know – all Indian food is overcooked and heavy tasting but in my defense, I do have to say that I don’t cook it often and those that have followed this blog over its progression in the past few months, know exactly what I have been cooking). And I like foods that have a subtle balance of sweet, tart and savory. So Vietnamese food fits the bill perfectly but unfortunately, nobody in my family ever agrees to go to Vietnamese restaurants. Each time I suggest going to a Vietnamese place, my suggestion is vetoed in favor of a Thai, Chinese or even Malaysian place. This is why I have now resorted to learning some Vietnamese recipes and if the “people” at my dinner table don’t want to eat what I have prepared, they can always make do with leftovers.
I am tempted to make this these garden rolls whenever my little herb garden starts to sprout in the spring. The mint shoots are fresh and crunchy and the basil leaves are green and not mottled with any fungus or limp from the summer heat. I do have to press upon the fact that this recipe for garden rolls is best when all the veggies are fresh and crunchy and you can play with the recipe and use any vegetables that you like – often alfalfa sprouts or bean sprouts work well with cucumber and carrots. I like to add radishes because they add a bit of a zing to it. I also make mine with steamed shrimp but for a vegetarian version a slice of extra firm tofu works great. I use these as appetizers for a party or if I am craving a healthy quick lunch by myself.
1. Two Persian cucumbers or one English cucumber
2. 5-6 peeled fresh carrots
3. ½ red bell pepper
4. ½ a yellow bell pepper
5. 5-6 radishes
6. 8-10 steamed shrimp ( you can buy steamed shrimp but make your own but make sure they are chilled when you want to use them for the rolls)
7. Vietnamese rice paper (available at all Asian stores)
8. 10-15 fresh mint leaves
9. 10-15 basil leaves
10. Bottled sweet and sour sauce
1. Wash and chop all the vegetables in thin slivers
2. Pour cold water in a shallow but large baking dish (large enough to hold the rice paper flat).
3. Gently place one sheet of the rice paper in the cold water and after dipping it in for 15-20 seconds take it out and lay it flat on a large cutting board. Try to not dip the paper in the water for too long, otherwise it tends to get very sticky and that makes it difficult to work with.
8. Slice the roll in the center along a diagonal and place on a serving platter.
9. Repeat the same steps to make more garden rolls.
10. Serve the rolls with some bottled sweet and sour dipping sauce and peanut sauce (I make it by combining peanut butter, rice vinegar, sugar and some Sriracha sauce and cooking it in a sauce pan on medium heat for 3-5 minutes).