Based on the principles of yin and yang, Goi Cuon appeals to every epicurean’s five senses. Its vibrant colors shine through the translucent rice paper making it visually appealing, the crunch of the fresh vegetables is like music to the ears, taste buds are treated to a high sensory pleasure through the flavors exuded by the ingredients, the fragrance of the aromatic herbs enhance your sense of smell and its textures are a pleasure to touch. All these elements are present in a simple recipe, whose beauty lies in no fancy technique or expensive emulsions and ingredients but in its fresh ingredients. Each component of this recipe complements each other, bringing out the personality of these simple yet appetizing Vietnamese spring rolls. Spring rolls always conjures up images of deep fried rolls stuffed with stir fried vegetables, but this can be called the anti-thesis to its fried counterpart. Low on calories, there is no element of cooking involved in these spring rolls.
For days on end I had been searching for rice paper and considering I am living in Malaysia, I thought it would be very easy. But I was wrong. I tried various supermarkets but to no avail. Then one day, as Murphy’s law would have it, since I was not looking for rice paper that day, there it was lying in one of the aisles. I grabbed the last two packets left, as I wasnt sure whether I would find them again. In my excitement, I set my grocery list aside and went on a treasure hunt to get ingredients for Vietnamese spring rolls. The only trick to make flavorful spring rolls is that the herbs should be fresh and aromatic. Use your sense of smell to pick the most fragrant mint leaves, as they are the key component of this recipe. Your palate would be amazed by various flavors emitted by these spring rolls without using any synthetic sauces and oils. The only cooking required for these rolls is to boil the prawns and the rice vermicelli.
- 500g cooked prawns
- 6 rice paper rolls
- 1/2 cup bean sprouts
- 1/2 cup carrots, julienned
- 1 cup mint leaves
- 1 cup rice vermicelli
- 1/2 cup spring onions
- Pour boiling water over the rice vermicelli and soak for 5 minutes till its cooked. Drain the water and let the vermicelli dry
- If you have bought uncooked prawns, then boil them till they turn pink and leave to cool
- Once your ingredients are ready, soak the rice paper rolls one at a time and place on a dry surface
- Start to place the ingredients in the middle of the rice paper, leaving at least 1 1/2 inch on all sides
- First add the prawns, then the noodles, spring onions, carrots, bean sprouts and finally a generous portion of mint leaves. Do not over-stuff as the paper might tear
- To make it into a roll, turn the rice paper horizontally from the side closest to you. Then wrap it vertically from the right hand side, covering the stuffing carefully to seal it. Then wrap it horizontally from the top sealing all the ingredients inside the rice paper. Roll towards the left hand corner to make a roll.
- Repeat with the remaining ingredients
- Serve immediately or refrigerate if serving at a later time
Goi Cuon literally translates into salad roll, and that is exactly what it is minus the seasoning. Each ingredient in the roll has so much flavor that even salt and pepper is not required. To me, it is the taste of the fresh mint leaves and the crunch of the remaining ingredients that make this dish one of my favorites. You can serve it with a sweet chili dipping sauce or soy sauce, but I prefer to eat it on its own. It’s popularity can also be gauged by the fact that it was number 30 on the World’s 50 most delicious foods of 2011 as compiled by CNNGO. And yet it’s beauty lies in its simplicity. Make it fresh or even in advance, it is a refreshing and beautiful appetizer for yourself and for your guests.