A few days back I got to do one of my favorite jobs in the kitchen, building spring rolls. Just like every thing else you need to assemble all the ingredients first. We have a number of different rolls on the menu, both vegetarian and with some kind of meat. Each recipe is different, our most popular is the “California” spring roll.
The California contains a piece of tender marinated roasted beef, leaf lettuce, red cabbage, carrot, jicama, cucumber, beet and cilantro all shredded and marinated in red wine, soy sauce and a hint of sugar. The beef is marinated in chimayo powder, garlic, honey, orange, lime, jalapeno and scallions all floating in blended oil and soaking overnight to get the flavor thoroughly into the meat.
The keys to a good spring roll are many so here we go. The vegetables should be shredded on a mandoline or something that will leave them thick enough to have substance but thin enough to be easily chewed. We use a robo-coupe with a shredding wheel. The beets should be thoroughly rinsed to reduce color bleeding. Next you will marinate the veggies in red wine, soy and a hint of sugar. This should only take a minute or so then put them in a strainer and press most of the liquid out of them ( if they are too wet the roll will dissolve or tear apart).
Spring roll wrappers are tough to find and when we do we will buy 2,3 cases at a time. We generally get them from a Vietnamese specialty shop but they are not always in stock, so you may wait a while to get them. Be sure that you get the wrappers that are made from rice flour and not wheat. The rice wrappers are stronger and seldom have any holes in them. (Holes will tend to tear open as you attempt to roll them together, I have had a few frustrating experiences with the wheat wrappers) Now you need to get ready to assemble them.
Marinated beef cooked and cooled sliced in 1″ by 2″ thin slices, vegetables well drained, leaf lettuce ready to tear into small pieces to line your roll. Next you need a wet linen surface to work on. We use cotton/rayon aprons which will hold moisture but have no lint which could stick to the wrapper, a small sheet or clean pillow case would work at home. Next get a chaffing dish and put very hot water into it; the wrappers will only get soft in very hot (160˚ +)water.
Now you are ready to make some fantastic rolls! Take the wrapper out of the package (With dry hands) and dip it into the hot water for about 3-5 seconds. You can use a pair of tongs to do this but be careful to avoid putting a hole in the skin. (I just use my fingers and a bowl if ice water, putting my hand in the ice water for 10 seconds then dipping the wrapper) Dip the wrapper, lay it on the linen or pillow case, it will soften in a matter of a few seconds after you lay it down. Next add a piece of leaf lettuce in the center of the skin 2″ x 3″ or so. Now add a small mound of marinated vegetables and top that with the beef slice. Now you are ready to roll; take one side and fold it over the beef and the grab the other side and fold it over the beef. Next take the back end (closest side to you and fold it over the beef and roll it up away into a tight roll.
The pictures are taken with my cell phone and do not show the best detail. I usually do about 25 at a time, storing them on another wet linen folded over the rolls to keep them moist and soft. If the rolls sit out at room temp they will dry out and get hard again if they get too wet they will stick together and or tear apart too easily. You may have to mess up a few to figure out the motion but once you get it down it really can go pretty quickly. I have done as many as 100 in an hour. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve them with a chimayo vinaigrette. I will post that recipe in a day or two when I can cut it back to “makes a quart” instead of the current “makes a gallon”.
I see that someone has searched for the dipping sauce that goes with the spring roll. There are several dips you could use. An out of the bottle sauce called Mae Ploy is pretty good. It is sweet and contains strong flavors of garlic and oriental pepper. We make our own and use chimayo powder to flavor a citrus flavored vinaigrette. Here is the recipe:
4 peeled oranges
2 peeled limes
1 bunch cilantro loosely chopped
2 Oz. Honey
2 ounces chimayo powder
1 ounce fresh garlic
4 ounces rice wine vinegar
salt, pepper to taste<– (Blend everything to this first. Then add oil slowly)
2 Cups Salad Oil
Put all of the above in a blender and whirl until smooth. Now slowly drizzle 2 cups of good salad oil into the blending mixture to emulsify your dressing. Serve this in a small bowl on the side or put it into a squeeze bottle and draw a few lines over your rolls just at serving time. Enjoy!
Just for fun I found this video, showing how the wrappers are made. Pretty interesting process.