Yes, I am! Very Happy!
Thank you all very much for your wonderful thoughts and wishes on my birthday yesterday. You touched my heart and made this the best birthday yet! I hope to get around to replying to all of you soon but I must make this post before the carriage turns into a pumpkin again.
We didn't quite finish the celebrations as planned for Medha's birthday earlier this summer. The high of the evening was supposed to be a marshmallow roast by the fire out on our patio, with the girls singing songs and telling ghost stories, while pretending they were out camping. Instead they had to troop to the basement, play Guitar Hero and eat backup dessert - vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sauce. I promised that I would make it up to them before summer ended. And I did.
It was after Labor Day but definitely before the vernal equinox, which is the official end of summer and start of fall. A sleepover was planned at my house on September 11 and it soon became clear that they had not forgotten. I heard whispers about a fire, marshmallows and even setting up a tent in the backyard. Uh, no. For the tent. The fire and marshmallows? No problem!
One Mom offered to bring a little craft for the girls to do and while they are perfectly capable of amusing themselves, I thought this would be a great wind down before dinner. Each girl painted a wooden letter, her first initial, and they were thrilled to put their first initials together to make a very positive word:
Dinner was not what they thought it would be. It was (Vietnamese) spring rolls, Chinese cold noodles and scallion pancakes - all recipes from Jen's Use Real Butter. I used tender chicken breast and substituted the fish sauce in the marinade with mirin, as two of the four girls did not like fish sauce. I am sure the taste of the meat is altered drastically but this was the best I could come up with. It was either mirin or soya sauce and I went with the milder mirin. I also skipped the fresh herbs because the local grocery stores had wilted fare and I didn't have the time to make it to the Asian market.
- 2lbs chicken tenders
- marinade for chicken, see below
- 1 packet rice spring roll wrappers
- 1lb bean sprouts
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced thin
- 1 English cucumber, cut into thin strips
- 1 bunch of fresh lettuce leaves, washed
- hoisin peanut dipping sauce, see below
- warm water in a large shallow bowl
marinade for the chicken
- juice of 4 limes
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- 8 tbsp mirin
- 8 cloves garlic, grated
- chilli-garlic paste, to taste
hoisin peanut dipping sauce
- 8 oz bottled hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 cloves of garlic, pounded into a paste
- chilli-garlic sauce to taste
- warm water, as required
- For the marinade, whisk all the ingredients together until the brown sugar has dissolved.
- Add the chicken to the marinade and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- Broil the chicken till done. Allow it to rest and then slice into thin strips.
- To assemble the spring rolls, dip the rice paper into the warm water for a couple of seconds and lay it out on your plate. It will soften as it absorbs the water, about half a minute or more.
- Put a lettuce leaf down on the rice paper first, about a third of the way down from the edge nearest you. This is important as the lettuce prevents the other veggie sticks from poking through the rice paper.
- Layer red peppers, cucumbers, bean sprouts and top off with chicken in a neat row on the lettuce.
- Gently pick up the rice paper from the edge nearest you and fold it tightly over the stack of ingredients, rolling and tucking as you go. Be careful not to tear the rice paper.
- Fold the sides in and contine to roll to the other end of the rice paper. (See how the White on Rice Couple do it.)
- If you can hold off, make another one or dip into hoisin sauce and eat right away! That's what the girls did!
- I used Romaine hearts which were long enough to cover the length of the roll. If you use smaller ones, overlap them to prepare a bed for the roll.
- You can add any fresh veggies you like to these spring rolls. The girls started reaching over for the ingredients for the Chinese cold noodles and some of their spring rolls had grated carrots and even strips of egg. And why not? It only tastes good!
- To make these vegetarian, use tofu instead of meat.
- It helps to stand when you are rolling your own spring roll.
- It also helps to lay out all the ingredients so that everyone has easy access to them.
These spring rolls are a terrific healthy burst of veggies making this something that I will be making again and again. Cutting and chopping the veggies takes a fair amount of time but the bottomline is that they are very healthy, making it worth the effort.
The girls were not shy with their opinions. They felt the spring rolls rocked and were the best thing they had had to eat that evening. Better than the Chinese cold noodles, only slightly better than the scallion pancakes. The marshmallows? They were a hit, too because I found hazelnut sauce, aka store brand of Nutella, that they poured over the roasted gooey gelatin. But there was not a single doubt that the spring rolls took the crown. I think a lot of it had to do with being in charge of preparing their own spring roll. I heard comments like:
This is a truly international meal!
Wow! I love how the hard paper becomes soft and piable like that! Isn't that cool?
This is soooo fun!
And it is. Why wait for a sleepover to make your own spring rolls? Do it now!