My spicy Thai peanut dressing from last night put me in mind of spicy peanut dipping sauce, and my favourite thing to dip in that sauce is Thai fresh rolls (aka summer rolls). They are crunchy, fresh (as the name
suggests), snazzy looking and super easy. If you want to wow a date or dinner party, whip up some of these babies. They can be made up to a day ahead if you store them covered with a damp cloth (don't use terrycloth, the little loops and fluffs will stick to the wrappers), but they're such a snap to make, I would just get all my veggies sliced ahead of time and assemble right before serving.
The other great thing is that fresh rolls are easy to make only as much as you want at the time, with one exception - the noodles. Fresh rolls usually contain rice noodles, which usually come in bundles fit to feed a family of four, and are impossible to separate into smaller bunches without getting dry noodles in every corner of your kitchen, only to linger there and poke your bare feet for weeks afterward even though you've swept the floor several times. I may be speaking from experience. An excellent option is to plan your meals around noodles. The cooked noodles store well in the fridge and you can use them the next day for a noodley stir-fry, or in a delicious soup like the one I made tonight with my fresh rolls.
Thai Fresh Rolls
Makes as many as you want!
-slivered veggies such as peppers, carrots, cucumber, green onion, sprouts, avocado
-cooked & cooled rice noodles
Cook your noodles according to the package directions. When they're cooked, pour them out into a colander and rinse well with cold water til the noodles are totally cold. Slice all your veggies and have them ready. If you're using avocado, brush them with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning.
Fill a large bowl with the hottest water that will come out of your tap. Dip a rice paper sheet in the hot water, count 3 steamboats and take it out. It will still be firm, but don't worry it will continue to soften while you're assembling your roll. Line your toppings up neatly in the middle, leaving enough room on the ends and sides for proper rolling. Start bundling by folding over the two ends, then fold over one side, then roll up burrito style. It should be a pretty tight bundle, but if you roll it too tight the rice paper will tear.
*Alternatively you can skip the noodles and it can be rolled up in lettuce or other flexible leafy green leaf for a truly raw dish.*
Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
This will make enough for about 4 rolls
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 clove garlic minced
Hot sauce or chili flakes (optional)
1-2 tbsp water to give desired sauce consistency
Stir ferociously til well blended and smooth.
The soup I made with this meal has pretty typical Asian elements and would go well with any type of meal, or all by itself as a quick lunch. The nori sheets in this recipe impart the flavour of the sea, as soups from Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and the like often are made with fish broth or other fish/seafood flavourings. You can leave it out if you're not partial to the flavour of nori. This soup is also very adaptable - you can add any number of vegetables you want. I think shredded carrot, peppers, and sprouts would be wonderful additions. Tiny cubes of tofu would also be great in this soup, and make it a more complete meal. I've given you the basics, and my personal favourite way of preparing it, it is now yours to personalize.
Super Easy Asian Noodle Soup
Makes 1 big bowl
4 or 5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)
1 strip* toasted nori, broken into small pieces
1 green onion, sliced
1 baby bok choy, chopped
handful of cooked rice noodles*
In a hot pot, saute shiitakes, garlic, and ginger with soy sauce for a few minutes. Add vegetable broth, chili flakes and nori. *Nori is often perforated into about 6 or 8 strips, use only one of these strips, NOT a whole sheet. Let the broth simmer for about 5 minutes to let the flavours mingle. Remove from heat and add onion, bok choy and rice noodles. *If you happen to have single serving rice noodle "nests" add them in a few minutes before removing from heat. Serve in a big bowl.