This is how my dad likes his Vietnamese rice paper rolls - without the rice paper! This version is so fresh and crunchy, the flavours are not masked by rice paper. Don't be tempted to overfill the rolls!
- 250 g pork belly, skin removed but keep fat on, cut into 4 cm-thick slices
- 100 g ginger, peeled and sliced
- 10 dried goji berries (see Note)
- 12 large raw (green) king prawns
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp boiling water
- 1½ tbsp fish sauce (see Note)
- ½ red birdseye chilli
- 1 lime wedge, squeezed
- 1 finger lime, fruit squeezed out (optional, see Note)
- ½ carrot, finely shredded
- 1 garlic clove
Spring onion oil
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small bunch spring onion, green part only, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp soft brown sugar
For the wraps
- 1 large iceberg lettuce (see Note)
- 500 g fresh or dried rice vermicelli woven squares (bánh hỏi) (see Note)
- 2 thin Lebanese cucumbers, cut into 7 cm x 5 mm x 5 mm batons
- 24 large Vietnamese mint leaves
- 24 large mint leaves
- 250 g bean shoots (optional)
- 12 perilla leaves (each about 8 cm in diameter) (see Note)
- 12 sturdy small bamboo skewers or picks
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Place the pork belly, ginger and goji berries in saucepan with enough water to cover by about 2 cm. Bring to the boil, then gently boil over medium heat for 45 minutes or until tender. Drain the pork belly, trim off the fat, and slice the meat into 2 mm-thin slices. You will need 12 slices. Set aside.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the prawns and cook for 4½ minutes or until opaque and just-cooked through, then drain and immediately refresh in iced water. Peel and remove the tails and veins. Set aside.
To make the dipping sauce, combine all of the ingredients, except the carrot, in a medium bowl. Adjust to taste; if it’s too spicy or sour, add more fish sauce. Add the carrot, stir, and let it pickle in the sauce. To ensure your fish sauce dip has the right balance of sourness, spiciness, sweetness and depth – follow the measurements accurately. If you prefer less spicy, add only half the amount of chilli. Make sure you taste the sauce and adjust to get the balance right.
To make the spring onion oil, heat the vegetable oil in medium frying pan over medium heat, add the spring onion and cook until softened, then add the sugar and salt, and stir to combine. Set aside.
To prepare the lettuce leaves, trim the base of the lettuce and gently peel off 12 nice-looking whole large leaves, being careful not to split the leaves. Trim each leaf so that it is at least 1 cm wider and longer than your rice vermicelli squares). When trimming the leaves, keep in mind that it’s easier to roll the leaf from the base to the edge, not side to side as the veins tend to split. Set aside.
To roll the wraps, place a lettuce leaf, with the base edge closest to you, on the benchtop. Place the rice vermicelli neatly on top. Spoon on the spring onion oil in a line about 2 cm from the bottom of the leaf, then add 1 slice cucumber, 1 slice pork belly and 1 prawn. Spoon on the pickled carrot and some of its sauce. Add 2 each of Vietnamese mint and regular mint leaves and some bean shoots. Roll up the lettuce tightly to make a log – trim any excess lettuce leaf when you get to the end. Place a perilla leaf neatly around the roll and secure with a skewer. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Serve the wraps with the remaining dipping sauce on the side.
• The essential ingredient for this recipe is the bánh hỏi (woven rice vermicelli) as this is an open lettuce wrap and the woven vermicelli helps hold the lettuce wrap together. You can not substitute regular loose rice vermicelli.
• You can buy goji berries from the health food aisle of supermarkets or from Asian grocers.
• You can buy rice vermicelli woven squares, and perilla leaves (also called tía tô in Vietnamese and shiso in Japanese) and bamboo skewers from Asian grocers.
• Finger limes (known as lime caviar) are a native Australian ingredient, in season from March to May. They add a burst of tanginess to the dipping sauce.
• I prefer to use a Vietnamese fish sauce, called 3 Crabs (made by Viet Huong Fish Sauce Company).
Photography, styling and food preparation by China Squirrel.
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