Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gỏi Cuốn & Tương Đen Pha Me

A piece of thin rice paper softened in hot water, encased inside is some rice noodle, a few shrimps and a few pieces of paper thin sliced pork, together with chives, lettuce and herbs, dipped in prepared peanut sauce. Such a simple, easy to make dish that wins its way to the menu of every level of  eating establishments, from vendors on the street of Vietnam, to mom and pop café to high-end restaurants overseas, from the US to Australia to France.
This roll, some called it spring roll, some called it steam roll (as opposed to fried spring roll “chả giò”), but the name “gỏi cuốn” can be literally translate as mixture in a roll.
Take a bite, the soft texture of rice paper, the fatty juicy taste of pork bacon, the sweetness of fresh shrimps, plus the savory taste of the dipping sauce, add to that the cool taste of fresh lettuce and noodle, plus a tingly feeling on the tip of your tongue by all those fresh herbs and chives together like a symphony that wakes up all the tones in your taste bud.
The spring roll doesn’t require any particular place on the menu. It can easily be a snack in a hot afternoon, an appetizer to prelude any other fancier dishes or even a main entrée when you can eat until you are full.
It can also welcome any kind of dipping sauce, depends on your taste. Some likes it with anchovy dipping sauce (mắm nêm), some preferred dilute fish sauce (nước mắm chua ngọt) or fermented soybean sauce (tương Cự Đà), but the favorite for most people is the mixture of hoisin sauce and tamarind (tương đen pha me). It’s easy but at the same time very picky, because you have to have spring roll with some kind of dipping sauce. Without the dipping sauce, the spring roll just lost its entirety all together.

Ingredients: (for 6 rolls)
6 pieces of rice paper
1/4 bag of rice noodle
3 leaf of lettuce, cut into 2 to make 6 pieces
12 each of basil leaves, mint leaves
12 stems of Chinese chive
12 large shrimp in shell
6 ozs fresh pork bacon (thịt ba chỉ)

  1. put an inch of water in a small sauce pan, season with salt to taste, when boiling, add shrimps, stir occasionally until shrimps turn pink, about 1 minute, drained over a colander, run under cold water and let cool. When cool, shelled the shrimps and slice in halves.
  2. put pork bacon in a sauce pan filled with cold water, add a bit of salt to the water to taste, bring to a boil, reduce heat, continue boiling until poke with a chopstick and clear juice, not pink juice coming out then it's done. Remove and put the bacon in iced water right away, this will prevent the bacon turning dark. Thinly slice cooked bacon.
  3. There are several brand of rice noodle in the market, but I prefer this one

   4. Follow instruction on the bag to cook the rice noodle. Drained in a colander and run under cold tap water to remove excess starch. Let cool before using.
   5. Use a plastic picnic plate as a rice paper plate. Run hot tap water on each side of the rice paper, carefully lay it out on the plastic plate.
  6. How to roll the spring roll like a pro
      Step1: on one end lay a piece of lettuce first, then 2 basil leaves, 2 mint leaves. Add rice noodle on top of the vegetable. On the other end, lay 4 pieces of shrimp, the pink side down so that it will show on the finished roll, then lay pieces of pork bacon next to the shrimp

    Step2: fold one side of rice paper over the noodle

    Step3: Keep on rolling to hold the noodle encased inside the rice paper

    Step4: Now fold the left and right sides in

    Step 5: Add the chives and fold in the end
    Step 6: continue rolling tightly
Voilà, you have a plate of "gỏi cuốn" that shows off the shrimp and meat like the work results of a pro.
Now let's make the dipping sauce "tương đen pha me". You can make this batch and save in refrigerator for future use or cut the recipe down to your needs.
2 1/2 cups hoisin sauce
1 cup water
4 oz or 1/4 package of tamarind
corn starch to thicken (optional)

1. Cook the tamarind in water until all the meat dissove into the water

2. Strained and discard the seeds

3. Add hoisin sauce to tamarind pulp and bring to a boil
4. If you prefer thicker sauce, add a teaspoon of cornstarch dissolves in 2 tsp of cold water to the sauce mixture. Stir constantly until the sauce thicken, remove from heat.
5. Let cool completely before pouring in a container and refrigerate for months for future use.

When serving with "gỏi cuốn", sprinkle a litte bit of chopped peanut on top of the sauce.

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