Another dish that we made in the cooking class that I taught yesterday was Vietnamese Summer Rolls. I usually want to order these in Vietnamese restaurants, but they almost always contain shrimp, which I definitely can't eat. Or they contain plain tofu, which I think is a little bland. So I started making them myself and adding some cooked pork that I seasoned with some Fish Sauce and sugar. Fish Sauce smells really strong but it cooks off and becomes really savory and the sugar helps the meat caramelize. Then there is the special dipping sauce that I learned to make from my ex-husband's Vietnamese wife: it is really simple and delicious - you mix equal parts of peanut butter and Hoisin sauce and then thin it to the proper consistency with a bit of boiling water. If you like crunch, you can use crunchy peanut butter or chopped peanuts at the end. My sons like to add a bit of Sriracha Sauce to make it hotter. In any case, these were much appreciated by my students and they were really surprised at how easy they were to make and they are delicious.
Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Pork
For the Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup Chunky Peanut Butter (I used Jif)
1/4 cup Hoisin Sauce
Enough boiling hot water to make a smooth sauce - I used about one teaspoon
Optional 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha Hot Sauce
Add all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until mixed. Add more water if necessary.
For the Summer Roll:
1 pound of boneless pork (I used pork chops) sliced into thin strips
1 Tablespoon of Fish Sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon of Vegetable Oil
1/2 package of dried rice vermicelli
12 round dried rice paper wrappers (8 1/4" round)
1 bunch of mint, leaves removed from the stem
1 head of red leaf lettuce, leaves separated and pulled off the rib
Optional: a handful of bean sprouts
Cook rice vermicelli in a medium pot of boiling water until tender - it should take anywhere from 3 - 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water and place in a bowl.
Put the pork strips on a plate and sprinkle with the Fish Sauce and the sugar. Use your hands to massage the seasonings into the pork and then let sit while the pan heats.
In a large frying pan, add the Vegetable oil and heat. Put in the pork and let cook on one side until browned and the opaque color comes halfway up the strip, turn and brown the other side. Remove to a clean plate and let cool.
Fill a baking pan with hot water and place next to a clean, slightly damp dish towel on the counter or a cutting board. For each roll, dip one rice paper wrapper into the water for about 10 seconds and remove from the water. Lay it on the dish towel and layer on pork, a small amount of noodles, some bean sprouts (if using) some lettuce and some mint leaves. Roll up while pressing down on the filling. You can tuck in the sides of the wrapper if desired. Set the roll on a platter. Continue until all are made. Serve 2 on plate with a small bowl of dipping sauce for each dish.
Five Element Analysis
Rice paper and rice noodles belong to the Metal Element so that element is covered. The pork, the Fish Sauce and the Hoisin Sauce contribute the Water Element. The lettuce brings in the Fire Element and so does the Sriracha if you use it, whereas the Peanut Butter adds the Earth Element. The Wood Element only has the mint to represent it, so be sure to serve it with something else that is a Wood food like something sour to achieve balance.