For my mother’s birthday this year, two of my younger brothers and I cooked her a multi-course dinner, complete with a fancy menu card propped up in the center of the table:
DINING MENU FOR MUM’S 52ND BIRTHDAY
stuffed with thyme & chevre
spicy thai soup with shrimp
with peanut dipping sauce
watermelon salad circle
french apple tart
We got a little carried away experimenting with the Thai soup, but everything else turned out impossibly well. We were so engaged in the celebration that it slipped my mind to take any more pictures, but I will definitely have to make those miniature sweet stuffed peppers again.
The middle brother makes a perfect Pâte Brisée, and so I may ask him to share his recipe here (although god knows how I’ve tried with pie crust, only to keep finding my hands full of dust-like raw-dough crumbs). And even though summer is just recently gone, I will probably go ahead and make that watermelon salad again, out of season, just because it’s so improbably delicious (you’ll see what I mean when I post its ingredient list).
Here following is the second plate special, brought to you by my youngest brother, a sixteen year-old Asian-cooking whiz.
6 (8½ inches in diameter) spring roll wrappers aka rice paper rounds
2 oz thin Chinese rice noodles (the REALLY thin ones), cooked according to package directions
12 medium shrimp, cooked, and sliced in half lengthwise
1 avocado, halved and thinly-sliced
2 large scallions, halved and thinly-sliced
½ cup fresh mint leaves
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ fresh basil leaves
6 large leaves green lettuce
½ cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced into matchsticks
½ cup carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
Other possible additions include bean sprouts, and seeded hot chile peppers sliced into matchsticks. This dish can be a little complicated anyhow, though, so I’m sticking with what my brother calls the basics.
1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp water
Once you wet a wrapper, you need to make it into a roll quickly, so organize your work station beforehand. Give yourself a decent amount of counter space, and put down a cutting board to work on. It’s helpful to prep all your ingredients first, and display them in separate bowls, in an easy-to-see formation around your board.
Prepare the roll wrappers by dampening a paper towel and using it to cover the bottom of a large dinner plate. Place the wrappers on top and cover tightly with cling film; set aside until needed.
Fill a large bowl with warm water. Only work with a single roll wrapper at a time. Soak the rice paper round in the warm water for not more than half a minute- you want it to become malleable, but not limp or soggy. Move it immediately to your cutting board.
My brother sometimes likes to put down a very thin spread of the peanut sauce first, but that can get messy easily if you don’t really know what you’re doing (like me). So start the roll by placing a lettuce leaf down in the center of the wet wrapper. Top with a line of 3-4 shrimp halves, and a leaf or two of each freshly washed and dried herb. Lay down some noodles, and then top with matchsticks of cucumber and carrot. Add a couple slices of avocado. Finish with 2-3 scallion strips, and you’re good to go. Be sure you haven’t overfilled the wrapper before you move to the next step!
This next part is hard to explain, so I found these handy pics elsewhere on the interweb:
Notes: Center the ingredients in a vertical position, about 2 inches from one of the edges. Pull up the bottom so there is good support. Then roll up the rice paper from one side to the other (above pictures show the paper being rolled from left to right). Roll tightly, so your end result resembles a neat cylinder with one open end.
Place your completed roll on another large plate, seam-side down. Repeat process until out of wrappers. Cover the plate of rolls with another damp paper towel, and tightly wrap in plastic wrap; place them in the fridge right up until it’s time to eat.
After that laborious process, the sauce is refreshingly easy: simply put the Hoisin sauce, peanut butter, and some sips of water into a small saucepan. Cook and stir, until all ingredients melted and well-mixed, andddd you’re finished!
We forgot to take our own picture of the finished product because we were too busy eating it.
Before serving, slice each summer roll in half on a diagonal slant. Drizzle sauce onto one of each roll halves’ open sides. You may want to double the sauce recipe so you can serve the rolls with extra sauce for dipping.
6 spring roll wrappers- $1.00
½ Thai Kitchen Thin Rice Noodles, Vermicelli-Style- $1.30
4oz (of 16oz bag) frozen shell-on shrimp- $2.25
1 avocado, halved and thinly sliced- $1.00
2 large scallions, halved and thinly-sliced- $1.00
½ cup fresh mint leaves- $2.00 (Herbs may be more, depending. Grow instead!)
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves- $2.00
½ fresh basil leaves- $2.00
6 large leaves butter lettuce- $0.50
½ English cucumber- $1.00
2 large carrots- $0.80
1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter- pantry (18oz generic is $2.50)
2 tbsp Hoisin sauce- $2.00 (for 8.5oz- pantry investment)
spring roll wrappers- 160
rice noodles- 180
fresh mint leaves- 3
fresh cilantro leaves- 3
fresh basil leaves- 3
1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter- 95
2 tbsp Hoisin sauce- 24
Total cost is $16.85, which is just over $2 per person. This recipe serves 6, and each roll (with its serving of sauce) is around only 130 calories!
These are pretty light, so you may still be hungry. I recommend you enjoy the rolls alongside a serving of peas- boiled, drained, and drizzled in a little sesame oil. If you’re down for that idea, 32oz frozen peas are an extra two dollars, sesame oil should be in your pantry. If it isn’t, go get it immediately- that’s an extra four bucks or so. Your total calorie count per person will be around 300.