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LAist In the Kitchen: Vietnamese Spring Rolls

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One of my all-time favorite things to order from my neighborhood Thai delivery joint is what they call Salad rolls. They're cold appetizer wraps stuffed with fresh produce and the hallmark flavorful bite of Thai and Vietnamese cooking, thanks to the palate-pleasing mix of pungent Thai basil, mint, lime, and spice.

Some say salad rolls, some say spring rolls, some even say cold rolls; in any case the food items in question are cylinders of veggies, herbs, and meat (or tofu) bundled in rice paper and dipped in a tangy sauce. They are filling but light, and perfect for warmer days and evenings when you want what you eat to help chill you out a bit.

Spring rolls might seem difficult to make, but under the tutelage of LAist photographer (and kitchen whiz) Wathana Lim, I was first whisked off to the Bangkok Market to shop for ingredients, and then taken into the kitchen, where I was given the secrets of making Vietnamese Spring Rolls, which I will now pass on to you.

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Photos of the shopping trip and the kitchen experience, and the recipe for the rolls and sauce after the jump.

Our first stop was the Bangkok Market for the ingredients. The market is full of colorful aisles loaded with Asian food staples. The market, incidentally, has a large Latino customer-base, so a fusion of the cultures was evident in some of the products available, along with a quick scan of the store for fellow-shoppers.

Key ingredients include the rice paper wrappers, the garlic chili sauce, and the fish sauce.

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The meat and seafood area has an array of fresh fish on ice in front of the glass butcher cases. Lots of folks were in to take advantage of the fish-frying service the market has. The cuts of meat were quite generous, and we had a hard time convincing the butcher to give us the small portion of pork our recipe called for.

Back in the kitchen we got to chopping and prepping. There are a lot of ingredients, but once the meat is cooked and the herbs stemmed there isn't much left to do but wrap and roll. De-veining shrimp is a bit tedious, but not a major gross out or hassle.

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Spring Rolls
Recipe courtesy Wathana Lim

1 package of spring roll rice paper medium size
1 package of vermicelli noodles
1 lbs pork butt
1/2 lbs of shrimp cleaned and peeled
1 bunch of thai basil
1 bunch of mint
1 bunch of cilantro
5 cloves of garlic
2 shallots, chopped
1 carrot
3 tablespoon of sugar
4 cups of water

In medium size stock pot, throw in 2 cloves of garlic (chopped) and 1 shallot with enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of pot. Once everything is nicely brown, throw in sugar and let it caramelize at the bottom of the pot then add pork butt and water. Let it come to boil and then reduce heat and cover for 20 minutes. Then when the pork butt looks almost finished add shrimp to cook and then drain pot. Set cooking water aside to add to noodles.

Once pork butt is cool to touch, slice it into thin strip pieces and set aside for when you are ready roll.

In a large pot with water bring to a boil and add vermeclli noodles. Be careful not to over cook--just leave in for a 1 minute until lightly soft and drain and set aside.

To make the oil that coats the noodles: Add 4 tablespoon of vegetable oil, remaining garlic and shallots. Cook garlic and shallots until both golden and translucent. In a seperate bowl add 1/2 cup of water from pork cooking.. mix together, add the bunch of chopped cilantro and mix in bowl with noodles. Coating all the noodles with sauce, oil and cilantro. Set aside.

Clean mint and basil and take leaves off steam. Shred the carrot and set aside.

Assemble all your ingredients in bowls on a large enough surface area. Get a large bowl or pot of warm water for dipping the spring roll rice paper. Did each paper in water until soft drain and then lay it on your cutting board.

Place a pinch of noodles, pork and or shrimp and thai basil and mint. Roll paper, tucking in the sides to finish rolling. Once done it's ready for dipping and eating!

This YouTube video shows someone making their version of Vietnamese Spring Rolls.

Dipping Sauce

4 teaspoons fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic chili sauce

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and serve with spring rolls for dipping.

Photos by Wathana Lim/LAist

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