Asian Spring Rolls with Cucumber-Mint Drizzle

Early Summer 2008
200803008.jpg
food and drink

BY: Marilyn Bentz-Crowley

The concept is Vietnamese, but ingredients include Thai basil, Japanese sesame oil and Chinese spring roll wrappers. Depending on the number served, these extra-stuffed rolls can be an appetizer or a light meal with a green mango or other Asian salad. Alternatively, cut hot rolls in half on the diagonal and serve as cocktail nibbles. These rolls can be prepared ahead and are best hot from shallow frying.

Rolls
4 baby bok choy
3 new carrots
2 to 3 generous stems of Thai or regular basil, leaves only
3 green onions
1 to 1½ cups (250 to 375 mL) peanut oil, divided
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp (15 mL) fish or soy sauce
¾ lb (375 g) small raw shrimp such as 41 to 50s
1 lb (500 g) lean ground pork
One 200 g pkg frozen spring roll wrappers, defrosted (24 square pieces, each 6-inches/15-cm across)
1 whole egg or 2 egg whites

Drizzle
8-inch (20-cm) piece English cucumber
¾ cup (175 mL) seasoned rice wine vinegar
¼ cup (50 mL) water
1 new carrot, finely grated
2 tbsp (25 mL) finely chopped fresh mint
2 tbsp (25 mL grated fresh ginger
½ tsp (2 mL) dark sesame oil
½ tsp (2 mL) chili flakes
Fresh coriander (optional)

1. Very thinly slice bok choy crosswise. Grate carrots crosswise. Finely chop basil leaves. Thinly slice green onions.

2. Heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Set aside remaining oil. Add bok choy and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes or until bok choy is somewhat wilted. Turn into a large mixing bowl; stir in carrots, green onions, basil and fish sauce. Cool.

3. As needed, peel shrimp including tail; discard shells. Coarsely chop shrimp and add to bok choy along with pork. Using your hands or a large wooden spoon, gently combine until well mixed. Peel spring roll wrappers apart. (Hint: Have package at room temperature and work from middle of a side rather than a corner.) Lightly beat egg or whites.

4. Place ¼ cup (50 mL) packed filling into centre of a wrapper. Shape into a 4-inch (10-cm) log, leaving 1-inch (2.5-cm) of uncovered pastry to each side. Brush visible pastry with egg. Fold up 1 flap over long side of filling log; brush edges with egg. Fold in sides; brush flaps. Neatly finish rolling up, totally encasing filling. Place rolls, seam-side down, on a plastic-wrap-lined tray as completed. (Rolls can be covered and refrigerated up to half a day. Or freeze with only a slight loss of quality; then transfer to a heavy sealed plastic freezer bag.)

5. To make drizzle, seed and finely grate firm portion of cucumber into a bowl. Add vinegar, water, carrot, mint, ginger, sesame oil and chili flakes. Cover and refrigerate until needed, up to a day.

6. When ready to serve, pour enough peanut oil into a large deep frying pan to a depth of 1-inch (2.5-cm). Heat over medium-high heat; when oil reaches 325°F (160°C) on an instant-read thermometer, add 6 rolls. Adjust heat as needed to maintain oil temperature. Fry, turning occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until richly golden-brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm until remaining rolls are fried. (Cook frozen rolls directly from freezer; add a couple of minutes to frying time.)

7. Lay on warmed plates; nap with a spoonful of drizzle including grated vegetables and serve right away garnished with chopped coriander or additional basil. Pass remaining drizzle.

Makes 22 to 24 rolls