Ever since I posted the quick and simple healthier eating recipes, I’ve been more aware and conscious of my eating habits and have been trying to choose healthier options from snacks (like gently baked strawberries and sweetened with apple juice instead of sugar from Urban Fruit) to meals (as much as possible, use fresh ingredients without added condiments like soy sauce salt, or oil.
One of my favourite things to cook are Asian dishes, because let’s face it, when you’ve been raised and grew up eating Asian food, you’ll need to satisfy the craving occasionally. One of my favourite things to make that is fresh and doesn’t involve deep or shallow frying, or oil-inducing methods of cooking, are Vietnamese summer rolls or gỏi cuốn.
It might still be somewhat chilly here in Edinburgh, but the freshness of the vegetables makes it a good summer dish to enjoy. This is normally served as an appetiser and is served cold, never hot. This would defeat the purpose of keeping all its ingredients fresh. The reason it’s called a ‘summer roll’ is because when it comes to the heat in Asian countries, dishes are served to help people cope with the intense heat. For example, you get tom yum goong (or hot and sour soup) in Thailand as the heat/spiciness from the soup helps lower your body temperature. In Vietnam, the freshness of the rolls and raw vegetables serve the same purpose.
Gỏi cuốn is usually made with fresh, raw vegetable cut into thin small slices/batons and your choice of cold cooked chicken or prawns and served with a non-spicy peanut sauce. When I passed by Real Foods recently and came across the rice spring roll wraps that I couldn’t get at my local Tesco Extra, I couldn’t wait to make my own gỏi cuốn to enjoy in the comforts of my own home. By the time I got off work though and went to the shops to get the ingredients we needed, it was already 8:45pm so I decided to switch it up a little by making spicy gỏi cuốn instead using coriander and chilli prawns with Singapore style vermicelli noodles.
For those who want to try to make traditional gỏi cuốn, you can still use the recipe below, but instead of getting the chilli prawns and vermicelli noodles, just use the plain/non-seasoned variety.
Spicy gỏi cuốn (Vietnamese summer rolls) with peanut sauce
Preparation time: 45 minutes
For the rolls:
1 pack vegan rice spring roll wraps (I got mine for £1.15 from Real Foods, you can purchase this online or from their stores on 8 Brougham Street or 37 Broughton Street)
1 small carrot, sliced into thin batons
2 leaves of cabbage, finely chopped
1 spring onion stalk, sliced into thin batons
500g vermicelli noodles (for spicy gỏi cuốn, you can get a bag of Singapore vermicelli noodles from the chilled section)
250g king prawns, peeled sliced length-wise (for spicy gỏi cuốn, you can get the pack of chilli and coriander prawns from the chilled section)
For the peanut sauce:
1½ tsp oyster or hoi sin sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 heaped tsp peanut butter (preferably creamy, but if you want a bit of texture feel free to use the crunchy ones)
1 tbsp cold water
1. Make sure your vegetables are already chopped and ready for wrapping. To get the rice wrappers ready will only take 10 seconds, so you need to be prepared!
2. If you bought fresh/raw prawns, make sure these are cooked, peeled and left to cool before moving on. To make the most of your prawns, butterfly your prawns in half. This will leave you with plenty of prawns for your rolls, otherwise you’ll find yourself running out too quickly!
3. If you bought dried vermicelli to cook at home, bring to boil a pan of water and cook the noodles (approx. 500g) for a few minutes and leave to cool in a bath of cold water. Drain the water when you’re ready to start wrapping.
4. Follow the instructions on the packet for the rice wraps. For the Blue Dragon rice wraps I bought, I prepared a wide shallow pan with hot water and put one wrap in the water for 10 seconds
5. Using a big dish, lay the glutinous rice wrap flat. Neatly lay out 2 half prawns, a pinch of carrots and cabbage and a small handful of vermicelli towards the top edge of the wrap (closest to you)
6. Now fold the left and right sides over your filling (3 and 9 o’clock). Then fold the top edge (6 o’clock) over and put a sliced spring onion on top.
7. Holding onto the top edge of the wrap with your thumb and your fingers on the covered filling, gently but firmly roll the wrap away from you.
The glutinuous consistency of the wrap will hold everything together, don’t worry about your filling falling out! That’s the important part of putting your filling quite close to the top and not in the middle!
Now for the sauce:
8. Mix the soy sauce and the oyster/hoi sin sauce together in a small sauce dish.
9. Once the sauce is well mixed, slowly mix in the peanut butter with a teaspoon. Once it’s well mixed, it will be quite thick and taste quite salty, but you don’t want to mix any more peanut butter in this as it will be quite thick
10. Add the water to the peanut butter mix until it’s at a good consistency for dipping. This had the right about of peanut butter for me, but if you want, feel free to add a bit more peanut butter and add a bit more water to make it easier for dipping.
Now present your gỏi cuốn and peanut sauce to family, friends or guests and enjoy!
If you’re not a big fan (or have an intolerance) to spicy food like I do (I can now take a small amount of chilli, but anything too spicy causes my tongue to burn and continued consumption can cause stomach pains!), go with the traditional and fresh rolls. It’s meant to be enjoyed as a refreshing dish to help lower your body temperature to cool you down with the summer heat. If you like a small bit of spiciness, the chilli and coriander prawns and Singapore style vermicelli noodles from Sainsbury weren’t too spicy, but there’s always the option of just getting spicy prawns or vermicelli instead of getting both in the spiced variety.
I’m always keen to share recipes from Asian cuisines because I love how healthy and different it is to Western or European cuisines. Almost all countries use oil in their food, whethr it’s fried or cooked with a dash of oil, you just can’t avoid it. With quite a lot of Asian dishes though, it’s either steamed or boiled, so you’re consuming quite a bit of water through your food and it’s a healthier method of cooking. I admit that there are also dishes that require deep or shallow frying, especially with Western influences introducing fusion cooking in Asian countries, but to keep to the tasty traditions of Asian home cooking, boiling and steaming if you’re not eating it fresh is the way to go.
Have you made your own gỏi cuốn at home? If you changed some of the ingredients, what did you alternate it with?