Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fresh Spring Rolls and Singapore Noodles

An ode to rice noodles!

Today I had fun exploring the international grocery stores in Rochester. Rice and Spice, an Indian place, is great and I got excellent service there. The shopkeeper helped me find everything on my list and even gave me some recipes. The Asian Food Store was really seedy and kind of freaked me out a little bit (especially the half-wit working the meat counter), but I found some amazing glazed pork and was inspired to make this meal.

I love Singapore noodles, even though they have nothing to do with Singapore, but they are hard to find. I've been meaning to figure out how to make them and today was the perfect chance. The dish is a lot like fried rice in that you use little bits of vegetables and meat, whatever you have on hand, except that it's made with rice noodles and seasoned with curry powder. I used chicken thighs and some glazed pork, and left out the traditional shrimp. Feel free to improvise and conduct Operation Icebox.

Update: Check out the Chicken Salad Springrolls and Hoisin Peanut Sauce I created later using leftover Hmong Chicken Salad! Also 

The springrolls are also well suited to improvisation and using what you have on hand. As long as they have rice noodles, something crunchy, and something aromatic you're doing well, especially if you keep an eye to color. You can make them vegetarian or use virtually any kind of protein: pork, shrimp, beef, seasoned tofu, etc... The great thing is that it's easy to keep rice noodles and springroll wrappers on hand.

The rice noodles I used for this recipe are one size smaller than I should have gotten (though they still worked pretty well). Look for ones that say 'rice vermicelli'.

Fresh Spring Rolls

6-8 springroll wrappers (sometimes called 'rice plates')
1 c. thinly sliced roasted red pork
1 large bundle or several small bundles of rice vermicelli (to make 2-3 c. cooked noodles)
1 handful Thai basil, cilantro, and/or mint
2 c. mung bean sprouts
2-3 leaves of Chinese cabbage or lettuce, sliced thin
1 carrot, julienned
radish, julienned or sliced thin, depending on size and shape

Boil the rice noodles for 3-4 minutes, then drain and rinse several times in cold water. Wash the herbs and vegetables well. Assemble all your ingredients to make an assembly line. Fill a shallow dish with warm water and make sure you have a clean, smooth working surface to form the rolls (such as the countertop or a plate).

Once everything is set up the assembly goes quickly.

1) Dip a rice wrapper in the water just long enough to get it completely wet. Place the wrapper on your work area, allowing some water droplets to wet your work surface.

2) Place the meat on the lower third of the wrapper in a way that will look attractive when you serve the springrolls.

Notice how the meat overlaps to form a pleasing pattern and there are a variety of colors in the roll.

3) Add some lettuce/cabbage on top of the meat for crunch and carrots nearby to provide color contrast.

4) Place a small handful of rice noodles on top of the lettuce so that it forms a narrow mound the size of your desired springrolls.

5) Place some herbs on top of the noodles and some beansprouts on the edges.

6) Fold the left and right sides over the filling. Bring the bottom flap up and over the filling.

7) Roll the contents away from you, tucking the edges in as you go and gently compressing the filling as you roll so that it makes a nice cylindrical shape. Bring the excess wrapper around the roll.

8) Keep the rolls moist as you work, handling them with wet fingers if they begin to stick together.

Trying to capture the dying light and avoid using a flash.

Singapore Noodles

As I mentioned before, the ingredients are flexible, and this can be made as a way to use up odds and ends. You can use leftover meat (omitting the meat-cooking step) and any vegetables you please.

1 large bundle rice vermicelli (to make 1 qt. cooked noodles)
1 onion, sliced thin
1/2 lb. chicken or pork , finely chopped
1 c. small cooked shrimp (optional)
1 large egg, beaten with a pinch of sugar and salt
1/3 c. each of the following vegetables, chopped finely:
  • carrots
  • celery
  • red or Chinese cabbage
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 hot chili peppers, minced
3-4 green onions, sliced into 1" pieces
1 handful cilantro, chopped
2 handfuls beansprouts
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
4 Tbsp. light soy sauce
3 Tbsp. curry powder
crushed peanuts (optional)
oil for high-heat cooking

As always, pre-prep is the key to a good stir-fry. Not pictured are the chopped meat, garlic, and cilantro.

Use a large pan of wok. Heat 1-2 Tbsp. oil until just smoking and add 1/2 of the chopped garlic and the hot chilis. Stir for 30 seconds, then add the chopped meat. Stir constantly, adding 1 Tbsp. fish sauce and 1 Tbsp. soy sauce partway through cooking. Cook just until the meat is no longer pink in the center, then remove it from the pan into a large bowl.

Repeat the above process with the oil and garlic. This time add the onions, carrots, celery, and cabbage, again adding the fish sauce and soy sauce part way through. When the vegetables are 3/4 cooked, move them to the edges of the pan and pour the egg into the center. Stir it constantly until it forms small, fluffy pieces. Toss the contents of the pan together until the veggies tender-crisp and then remove everything from the pan into the same bowl as the meat.

Allow the pan to cool a bit and rinse the noodles in cold water again to loosen them up, and drain them very well. Add oil to the pan and heat it up to medium-high. Add the noodles to the pan, immediately stirring so that they don't stick too badly. Add 2 Tbsp. of soy sauce and 2 Tbsp. curry powder and stir to combine.

Return the meat and vegetables back to the pan, along with any juices that collected to the bowl. Do your best to combine things thoroughly, while trying to stir as little as possible (ie, be efficient--too much stirring and the noodles break apart). When things are half-combined, add the cilantro, beansprouts, and green onions and one more Tbsp. curry powder. Remove from heat and keep tossing. When everything is fully combined, serve piping hot and garnished with more beansprouts and chopped peanuts.

No comments: