Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Anatomy of a Fresh Spring Roll

There's something about the texture of a fresh spring roll that I really enjoy. Or perhaps, it's the contrast of textures that I find so appealing. The chewiness of the rice paper, the crunchiness of the carrot and the hearty bite of, in this case, kale. Fresh spring rolls can be quite simple if you want them to be, or they can be exotic with bits of fresh ginger, red pepper flakes and fresh mint leaves. Use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Often they're filled with thin rice noodles, too.

Lucky for me, I like them filled with pretty much anything. This post is more about the technique of wrapping and filling a fresh roll, then about what should go inside. Though, I should mention that I am a big fan of kale with some julianned carrots, zucchini, fresh ginger and a few splashes of gf soy sauce, rice vinegar and agave inside of my roll. Avocados also make a nice, creamy addition.

I live about 800 yards away from a very large Asian market with incredibly inexpensive groceries. I can find young coconuts, rice paper, tapioca starch and rice flour for less than half the price of what I pay at my local health food store. It's a gluten-free paradise. I also have choices, I can buy round rice paper, or square. I prefer to work with the square pieces as I find there's less of a chance for the filling to sneak out.

Making rice paper pliable is quite simple. I filled a large pan of mine with water (only about 2 inches) and put over the stove on medium-low heat. Once the water was warm I simply place the rice paper in and let sit for ten seconds. Once that is done, remove and the rice paper is ready to be worked with.

You'll want to prepare your filling before you do this because the rice paper can cool quickly (within a minute or two) and become too sticky to roll.

Once you have your rice paper lying flat, place your filling mixture on the lower-third of the rice paper. Make sure to leave room (about an inch or two) on both sides of the mixture.

Next, start "rolling" the rice paper, just until the mixture is covered.

Then, fold in the "extra" paper that you left on the sides.

Once you have done that, continue rolling tightly until you have your roll.

If you are making a whole batch, be sure to place a damp paper towel over the plate of rolls so they don't get dry. They can stay like this for a few hours. They go really well with sweet chili sauce, I used Thai Kitchen Sweet Chili Sauce, which says gluten-free on the label. Hey That Taste's Good also has a simple recipe for the sauce (and spring roll post!) on her website. Yum.


grumpster said...

Would this rice thing work as a lightweight burrito wrap? rice, beans, chickin'chunks etc or would it fall apart?
Looks damn healthy.

The Good Eatah said...

Ooooh. Great call, Grumpster! In fact, I added roast pork to my boyfriend's rolls since he needs to meet his daily intake of protein to keep his muscles huge (I'm half teasing).

I think it would work, but you might need to add some sort of replacement for the typical lettuce or kale that comes in the rolls -- it seems to keep the roll in its proper roll form. If it were straight rice, beans and chicken chunks the roll would fall limp, but if you're not picky about that it should taste mighty good. Even using long chicken strips might do the trick.

FYI: after doing the math, each sheet of rice paper is around 40 calories each and I find them pretty filling.

Tiffany said...

You know, I have never used rice paper before and I was curious about it. I used to always use wonton skins, but I was unsure about the rice paper. Do you know if it works to brown them in a skillet after rolling them? I guess I'm just looking for something to replace my wontons!!

The Good Eatah said...

Hey Tiffany. Good question -- a commenter over at Hey That Tastes Good (linked at the end of my post) mentioned to put a little sugar in the warm water you use to make the rice paper pliable and it will help the rice paper brown when frying. I am certainly going to try that!

Ricki said...

I love rice paper spring rolls! Never thought of putting kale in instead of lettuce--great idea. And I love the square papers, which I've never seen before; must look next time I shop for them.

Tiffany said...

Great, thanks for the tip!

The Good Eatah said...

Hey Ricki! I thought of you and Melissa from Gluten Free for Good when I added the kale; you ladies seem to have an affinity for kale much like mine :)

No prof, Tiff! Let me know if you end up making them.

amber :) said...

Great post...I just wanted to let you know that one of the tricks I have found for making sure that your wraps don't fall apart and/or tear easily is that when you take them from the water, place them on a non-fluffy tea towel and lightly pat them dry - it makes the job much easier!! Just my $0.02
amber :)

The Good Eatah said...

Hey Amber! Thanks for the great tip. I will definately do that next time as they were a bit on the slippery side.

Chef Penny said...

What a great post! We are doing spring rolls during our raw week next month. Thanks for making it look so easy and giving me some great ideas!

bird said...

Hello. I stumbled on your site by accident... but I do wonder if you have tried the following... For years, I "cooked" my wraps exactly as you describe before rolling them. Then about a year ago, thanks to the wonders of internet videos, I stumbled on the first actual instructions I had ever seen on how to roll them. They suggested simply dipping the wrap in warm water before rolling. It works beautifully! The wraps stay a bit stronger while you work, and if they don't seem quite flexible enough as you begin, don't worry - as long as you fully coat them in water on both sides (maybe one would do), they will soften enough to roll by the time you have filled them. They don't get all squishy, folded, and slippery like they do when you cook them. I even use room temp. water instead of warm. My only remaining problem is keeping them from sticking together... and making enough for leftovers and all the great fans of them (and my spicy peanut sauce - yum!)!!!

bird said...

Oops - one more thing. I also find that rolling the wraps on my jelly cutting board (those softer plastic ones like Ikea sells) helps keep the rolls tighter than a glass work surface. The slightly textured (and cut up) jelly board offers more friction to keep it pulled tight. AND... by dipping - not cooking - the wraps, they are also tighter, as they aren't so slippery as noted above.