Vietnamese rice paper rolls, also known as summer rolls, offer a hands-on cooking experience open to all sorts of experimentation. Many of us can't whip together a macaron tower or tell the difference between a quail and a pigeon when it's been basted in apricot and stuffed with truffles. But, thanks to the skyrocketing popularity of television cooking shows, culinary horizons are broadening and home cooks are increasingly willing to bust out new moves in the kitchen.
When you're feeling adventurous the world is your rice paper roll. Easy to customise and fun to assemble, this Asian dish is a great option when cooking with a few friends or some keen kids. Traditionally, base ingredients such as pork, chicken, or prawns are wrapped into a rectangular rice paper bundle with vermicelli noodles and wombok cabbage, cucumber, and carrot. You can happily mix things up to suit individual tastes by using alternative fillings such as salmon, mushroom, salami, ham, turkey, snow peas, lettuce, and bean sprouts.
1. Cover vermicelli noodles with boiling water and set aside in a heatproof bowl for five minutes or until soft. Drain. 2. Cut your chosen fillings into strips. All meat should be cooked and then cooled to room temperature. 3. Fill a shallow bowl with warm water. Place a sheet of rice paper into the water for approximately 30 seconds. It needs to be pliable but not too soft otherwise it can tear. Dry on a paper towel and place on a clean, flat surface. 4. Assemble noodles and other fillings approximately five centimetres from the edge of the rice paper that is closest to you. Don't overfill as this will make it difficult to wrap. Pull up the bottom edge and then fold in the left and right sides of the paper. Roll to enclose the fillings. Place seam side down and cover with a damp tea towel while you make the remaining rolls.
Once you're happy with your creations it's time to get saucy. Sweet chilli sauce goes well with most combinations, particularly prawn rolls. Hoisin sauce is your best bet for pork, and satay is always a tasty choice when chicken is involved. For younger palates try a mixture of barbeque, tomato, and soy sauce with a dollop of honey.