We’re back from an amazing vacation to Asia and finally, a week later I’m over the jet lag! Stops in Thailand, Vietnam, and Hong Kong proved every bit the adventure that I had hoped for. There were many facets to the trip, but of course food was at the top of my list. This southern boy has always loved Asian food, but after visiting this part of the world, I have a renewed appreciation for Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.
I particularly loved experiencing the street markets where fruits and vegetables abound. We visited the Vietnamese town of Hoi An, an authentic and popular tourist stop. The market in Hoi An was one of the most extensive ones that we visited.
I had great fun trying fruits that we don’t see around in my neck of the woods.
While in Hoi An, we attended a Vietnamese cooking demonstration at a local restaurant. Pictured above are Jim, the chef, and me. During the demonstration, the chef prepared summer rolls, a traditional Vietnamese food made with shrimp, pork, vermicelli rice noodles, and Vietnamese herbs rolled in rice paper. I’ve recreated the summer rolls for today’s post. You’ll need to visit an Asian market to find some of the ingredients for this dish. This is a list of items you’ll need that you won’t find in regular supermarkets:
- Rice papers
- Fish sauce
- Sriracha chili sauce
- Chinese Five Spice
- Thai basil
- Vermicelli rice noodles
The Vietnamese use a variety of herbs for this dish and others. Frequently used herbs include Thai basil, Vietnamese mint, and Chinese coriander. Some of the herbs are more available than others. If you can’t find these herbs in an Asian market, you can use mint, cilantro, and a green leaf lettuce. I particularly like the flavor of Thai basil and I find it more readily available than some of the others.
A sheet of rice paper is approximately 8 1/2 inches in diameter. As you can see from the photograph above, the rice paper has a pattern on it and before wetting it feels almost like plastic. Handle these sheets with care as they will break easily.
Rice paper will be very sticky when it’s wet. I found that a silicone mat worked well for preparing the rolls. To prepare the rice paper you’ll need a small bowl of warm water and paper towel. Wet the paper towel and rub over one side of the paper. Carefully turn the paper over and wet the other side. Repeat this process until the paper is soft and pliable. You’ll know that the paper is ready for rolling when it becomes almost clear and the pattern has disappeared.
To prepare the rolls, place a small handful of the herbs on the side of the paper closest to you. Top the herbs with bean sprouts and vermicelli noodles. Place two slices of pork in front of the herbs and then place sliced shrimp, cut side up, in front of the pork.
Carefully lift the side of the rice paper closest to you and begin rolling the paper away from you. The wet paper will tear very easily, so use care when rolling.
As seen in the photo above, fold the sides of the paper inward and place chives over the shrimp before completing the roll. These rolls and dipping sauce are absolutely delicious and a great appetizer for the summer season. Vietnamese food is incredibly flavorful and very healthy. If you’re trying to lighten your diet, I would highly recommend trying some Vietnamese recipes.
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce (I use Sriracha)
2 scallions, green part thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 small pork tenderloin
8 sheets of rice paper
16 medium shrimp, sliced lengthwise
16 thin slices pork tenderloin
3 cups herbs, (e.g. mint, cilantro, Thai basil, butter lettuce)
1 cup mung bean sprouts
6 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
Garlic chives (optional)
Mix all ingredients and set aside.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Mix all ingredients and coat pork tenderloin.
3. Place tenderloin on a baking sheet and cook to an internal temperature of 150 degrees.
4. When cooled, thinly slice tenderloin.
1. Bring a small pan of water to a boil and cook the vermicelli noodles for 3 to 4 minutes or until soft. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
2. Place rice paper on a silicone baking sheet. Wet paper towel with warm water and rub over rice paper. Turn paper and wet other side. Continue this process until the paper is clear and pliable.
3. Place a small handful of herbs on the side closest to you. Top the herbs with bean sprouts and vermicelli noodles.
4. Place two slices of pork in front of the herbs. Place four shrimp, cut side up, in front of the pork.
5. Carefully lift the side of the rice paper closest to you. Begin rolling away from you, taking care to not tear the paper.
6. Fold the sides of the paper inward, place 4 chives over the shrimp, and complete the roll.
7. Divide the dipping sauce into four small bowls and serve with rolls.