For dinner on Saturday night, Michael and I concocted a hybrid of deep-fried spring rolls and their healthier cousin, the rice paper wrap. They are also inspired by our favourite dumplings, from Kuan-Yin Vegetarian Tea House in Brisbane. Michael referred to the dumplings in his post about Chinese New Year, and they must've been lurking in my subconscious appetite ever since.
Here's a rundown/recipe.
For the filling, we chopped:
- 4 shallots
- a red capsicum
- a carrot
- a zucchini
- a large handful of shitake mushrooms
and minced a small knob of ginger and 3 cloves of garlic. I would also have liked to add some re-hydrated TVP as a pork mince substitute, but it has disappeared from Safeway! Some firm tofu would also be a worthy addition. All these ingredients are stir-fried in a tablespoon of peanut oil, and once everything's heated through add about a tablespoon of hoisin sauce and 2 teaspoons sambal oelek. When the veges had softened slightly, transfer them back into a bowl and stir in 2 large handfuls of bean sprouts. Let the mixture cool for a bit, then add some mint and basil leaves, torn or left whole. Don't add too many or they'll smother the other flavours! Perhaps you could just add a single leaf of each to the individual rolls as you wrap them instead.
Once the mixture's cooled down a bit, it's time to get wrapping. After cleaning it, fill the frypan half-way with water and heat it up, turning the stove down to low when it's just too hot to touch comfortably. Take a dry rice-paper wrap, soften it in the water, and gently lay it on a dinner plate. Spoon some filling in the middle and show some restraint! You'll just make things hard for yourself if you use too much. Avoid any liquid that may be gathering at the bottom of the filling bowl.
These translucent ones are ready to eat if you want the healthy version! But they're too fragile for frying, so I used two layers of rice paper for each roll. Once I'd made enough rolls for our dinner, I tipped the water out of the fry-pan, dried it off, and heated up a tablespoon or two of sesame oil until very hot. Plonk in the rolls, a few at a time. Hopefully they'll sizzle crazily. Brown the underside and flip over. Just as well I double-wrapped, since the first layer burnt through in a couple of spots!
Don't bother trying to rotate the roll and fry all the sides, these two surfaces will provide plenty of flavour and crispness. The uncooked surfaces, rather than being gummy, provide a deliciously chewy contrast to the crunchy sesame flavour. The filling is an explosion of watery veges, chilli and salty, with a hint of ginger and occasional refreshing bursts of mint and basil. Michael sorted out a small bowl of soy sauce, sweetened with rice wine, for our messy dipping pleasure. Eat with hands, gusto and a supply of napkins!