A thin but still chewy rice paper wrapped some fresh vegetable and delicious cooked meat, that is described as “a salad packed into an edible container” by Gourmet Magazine.
Once you have mastered the basics, you can play around with the recipe to your heart’s content, but the guiding principle should always be to cram as many contrasts of flavour and texture into each bite as possible, while retaining the roll’s elegant appearance. But for now, you need to learn “Vietnam Wrap Rolls 101” class first!
1. The basic
The most popular kinds of meat to put in wrap rolls are pork and prawn. With prawn, you have to simmer them with lemongrass and a little bit salt, so they act as a savoury element in this dish. Prawns in Vietnam tent to be bigger the the north Atlantic prawns so you will have to cut them in half. The reason why Vietnamese use them is these prawns bring vibrant and pretty colors than the others.
Many other recipes suggest adding pork, usually belly-cooked. The pork should be simmered in salted water until tender, then thinly sliced before use. As well as making the dish more substantial, the meat, like the prawns, acts as a savoury balance to the other ingredients, while also adding a richness of it owns.
* The vegetable
Lettuce – the softer sort than crispy iceberg – seems to be the one constant in wrap rolls, and the leaves are usually used whole as a layer in themselves. After that, we stuff some shredded cucumber, carrot, some slices of pineapple and starfruit to add sour taste. These vegetable add the crunchy texture to the wrap, opposite to the soft meat and chewy noodle.
* The herb
Herbs play a big part in Vietnamese cooking – they are often used more like a salad leaf than a garnish, and in these wrap rolls, it is no exception. Most people will add coriander, mint leaves, savory. But be careful, these herbs are quite strong, the more you add, the more flavor will be ruined.
Noodle is sold in every market in Vietnam. But remember to buy these with round shape, it is called “bún”, not those with thin and flat shape called “phở”. The ideal texture is yielding but still slightly chewy and a little bit sour.
There are two types of rice paper in Vietnam, the round shape and the rectangle one. The round rice paper is often use for fried spring rolls because they are stiff and dry while the rectangle one, that is used for wrap rolls, is soft and chewy. When buying rice paper, you must remember to choose those with soft texture, but not so soft that it tears in the process.
For a nutty taste, you can add roasted peanuts, which add a burst of both texture and salt to the rolls.
There are no standard dipping sauce for wrap rolls, just a simple and classical one. It starts with warm water and sugar that are whisked until blending in. Then, you pour in Vietnamese fish sauce and lime juice or vinegar, flavoured with chopped chili and garlic.
A simple mix of lime juice, chili, sugar and fish sauce fits the dish perfectly. This sauce is light and zingy that really matches the freshness of the rolls themselves.
This is probably the trickiest aspect of wrap rolls, but as they said “Practice makes perfect”. Here are some advice for beginners “Less is more”. People often tend to stuff as many as they can on the rice paper, that comes to an end that your wrap is overloaded and starts to tear apart. It is really hard to seal the rolls when there are so much filling in them.
First, you lie the rice paper down, put lettuce and green herbs then come to the noodle. Then, you can add prawns and start to roll tightly. Bring the bottom edge odd the wrapper tightly up over the filling and then fold the sides in over it. Continue to roll up tightly and place on a late, join-side down. It is nicer to see some pink prawns and green herbs through the translucent wrapper.
2. Different kinds of Vietnamese wrap rolls
* The basic one/Summer Roll
These wrap rolls are known as one of Hanoi tradition dishes. A thin rice paper is rolled with prawns, meat and some vegetable, then is dipped with simple sauce that is made with fish sauce, sugar and lime juice.
* “Nem tai” roll
“Nem tai” is simply pig ears that are cooked and sliced thinly, then mixed with roasted soybean powder and some lime leaves. This dish has an unique flavour, crunchy “nem tai” combines with soft noodle and some fresh vegetable. It is an extraordinary experience in Vietnamese cuisine.
* Hue Roll
At the first sight, it is nothing different from the normal summer roll. But instead of simply cooked pork, the meat is flavoured with lemongrass, garlic and roasted on charcoal until golden brown. The dipping sauce is a special sauce from Hue that is made with shrimp, it has sour and spicy taste at the same time.
Restaurant where you can try this out:
– Viet Deli: 58 Hang Dao Str., Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
* Da Nang Roll
This Da Nang roll is call “Bánh tráng cuốn thịt heo” in Vietnamese. Basically, it starts with a rice paper, then a big slice of noodle that is in rectangle shape, like the shape of rice paper. After, you add some fresh vegetable like lettuce, herbs, cucumber, starfruit and pineapple. The meat is thinly sliced. And the dipping sauce is a special fish sauce from Quang Nam – a province of Vietnam. Its texture is thicker than regular fish sauce so it brings deeper flavour.
* Mustard Green Roll
Instead of using rice paper, we use mustard green. This roll has really fresh taste with vegetable, beef and mushroom. The dipping sauce is made with fermented bean and freshly squeezed lime juice, that will bring out all the flavor.
Eatout.vn: Listing many best restaurant in Vietnam