Tag Archives: Vietnamese Cuisine

Vegetarian Summer Rolls (Gỏi cuốn)

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The mint leaves are rolled into the last layer of the wrappers, so that the green shines brightly through the translucent rice. Strips of carrots give the summer rolls a pink hue.

Last week I was lucky enough to help out at my first Grub Club pop up event, hosted by the brilliant and energetic Sharon and Eliza at Miss Manchu. Sharon is Malaysian Australian and an expert in Pan Asian cooking, and she designed a 6 course menu ranging from a starter of deep fried son-in-law eggs and Vietnamese prawn summer rolls to Chinese style pork buns and Thai pandan pancakes with lychee ice cream and bubble tea. We were catering for 40, and so as soon as I arrived at 1pm I was put to chopping 40 chilies, gutting 40 prawns (a slightly uncomfortable new for me) and rolling 40 summer rolls.

As soon as that was done I set about making as many green pandan pancakes, which took about an hour and a half because the pancakes needed to be cooked slowly on each side to avoid them from browning, and then needed to be rolled with a sweet coconut filling just like the summer rolls. We finished cooking that night past 11pm! And I left happy and satisfied with a tub of Sharon’s delicious home-made lychee ice cream in tow.

So as you can see I have summer rolls and rolling in general on the mind, having picked up a tip or two from both Sharon as well as Nhu – a lovely and skilful fellow sous-cheffer. Urged on by the late onset of spring, since then I’ve been making batches of summer rolls at home, and so here’s my recipe using tofu, mushrooms and peanuts:

Recipe (makes 8 rolls):

20g rice vermicelli, soaked in boiling water for 4 minutes then refreshed under cold water.
3 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes.
1 carrot, sliced into julienne strips
100g tofu
1/2 jicama (optional), julienne sliced and then fried gently for 3 minutes.
16 mint leaves plus extra for serving
8 Thai basil leaves
5g of coriander, coarsely chopped.
8 circular dried rice wrappers
Nuoc Cham Sauce (click here for recipe)

Slice the tofu into thin strips, about 1 cm thick and 5 cm long, and shallow fry them in a wok in hot oil until they begin to turn golden. Remove and place them on kitchen roll to absorb excess oil, then slice lengthways again to make them thinner. Set aside with other filling ingredients. Slice rehydrated mushrooms into thin strips, about 2 mm wide.

Soak a rice wrapper in a bowl hot water, turning the edges like a wheel so that the whole sheet becomes wet. As it starts to soften, place the wrapper carefully on a hard, moistened work surface. Then place 4 strips of tofu horizontally about 5cm away from the bottom edge. On top of this add two slices of mushrooms, about 5 batons of carrot, a couple of batons of jicama if using, a sprinkle of chopped peanuts, two mint leaves, a sprinkle of coriander and about half a tablespoon of vermicelli. The shape should be that of a small, horiztonal sausage.

Now, carefully roll up the bottom edge of the wrapper until it has covered the ingredients, and then do another half roll over the top. Then fold each side edge of the wrapper to the centre over the sides of the filling, trying to avoid any creases or folds. No carefully go back to rolling the filling towards the top of the remaining wrapper. Before the last roll of the filling, place a Thai basil leaf face down about 2 cm from the top edge of the wrapper, which will then be rolled in at the top of the summer roll as in the picture above.

Invite eaters to wrap the rolls in crispy lettuce to add a crunch to each bite, and dip in the nuoc cham sauce as they go.

(Photo by Luke Walker)

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Vietnamese Omelette

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Seemingly humble, nay, even strange (to Europeans) ingredients like squiggly black cat’s ear mushrooms render a delicious, mildly salty taste and lovely crunchy texture to this staple Vietnamese dish. 

This is my adaptation of my Tata Hélène’s recipe for Vietnamese omeletes, aka hairy omelettes as I used to call them, due to the crunchy ribbons of noodles, onions and mushrooms that thread through the eggs. The savoury, salty flavour that hits you from the mixture of fried eggs, onions, garlic, vermicelli noodles, dried cat’s ear mushrooms, pepper and thin soy sauce is like no other – you’ll not get over it, it is overwhelming and addictive. When we used to visit my aunt in Marseille, us kids would love these so much that on the last day of our visit, Hélène would make several big ones (with shredded pork) and stack them up on a plate for us to take away on the journey home. The last time she made them for us as children I ate so many in the car on the way home that I contracted salmonella from the eggs… I’m sure there a several lessons to be learnt from that story. But this summer she made some again for me, after many years of absence, and I can vouch for their enduring deliciousness – I was certainly no young fool in my childhood love for these.

Recipe: (serves 2 with side dish(es) and rice. Double the ingredients to make one big, fat omelette to serve up sliced for 4 or more).

1/4 onion, sliced lengthways quite finely
1 – 2 cloves garlic depending on taste, finely diced
1/2 cup bean vermicelli, soaked and chopped into roughly inch long pieces
1/2 cup pre-soaked, sliced wood ear mushrooms (aka: black fungi/cat’s ear mushrooms/oreilles de chats. You can buy these pre-sliced in longdan supermarkets, or use about 2 whole mushrooms)
1 tbsp thin soy sace
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Fry the onion and garlic on a low heat for 4 minutes in the oil, until they become translucent and begin to soften. Use a non-stick frying pan.

Add the soaked and shredded vermicelli and mushrooms and fry on a medium heat for another 3 minutes. Frying all these separately before adding the eggs ensures that they impart maximum flavour.

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Beat 4 eggs together in a bowl (use chopsticks to save on washing up), until yolks and whites are fully combined, and add soy sauce and pepper. Add egg mix to the frying pan and mix quickly for a few seconds to ensure even distribution of vegetables. Let it fry for 2-3 minutes on one side, until the bottom half is firmly cooked and curling off the edges of the pan.

Take frying pan off the heat and put it under the grill for another 2-3 minutes, until the omelette is golden and all the egg is thoroughly cooked.

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