Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nime Chow

Making nime chow (or goi cuon or vietnamese spring rolls) is only worth doing if you have a good reason. They require a certain amount of fiddly knife work, a wrapping technique that takes practice, and last minute assembly. That said, they're superdelicious, healthy, festive, good finger food, cheap, and most of the prep work can be done ahead of time. So I'm not trying to convince anyone to make them, but if you do, here's a recipe that worked well.

Makes 15 rolls and plenty of dipping sauce

3 carrots
1 english cucumber
15 rice paper wrappers (banh trang)
1 block firm tofu
thin rice noodles
salt and pepper
15 large basil leaves
30 mint leaves

sauce (nuoc cham):
juice of 2 limes (makes one part)
one part sugar
one part fish sauce
two parts water
2 cloves garlic, minced
chili sauce to taste

Cut carrots and cucumber into 4 or 5 inch long matchsticks.
Cook rice noodles in boiling water until tender, then rinse in cold water.
Measure the juice you get out of the two limes, and then make sauce.
Mix the sugar, water and fish sauce. Heat it to dissolve sugar.
Cool the sugary mixture, then add the lime juice, garlic, and chili sauce.
Squeeze and blot the tofu to get rid of some extra moisture.
Cut it into three flat slabs, then each slab into 5 long bars.
Mix cornstarch with salt and pepper, then dredge the tofu bars in it.
Fry the tofu in a well-oiled non-stick pan until crisp and golden brown.
Set up your work area: carrot, cuke, mint, basil, noodles, and tofu.
Dip one rice paper wrapper in hot water.
Lay the wrapper on a clean tea towel.
Lay one basil leaf and two mint leaves in the middle of the wrapper.
Pile some carrot, cucumber, noodles, and one tofu bar on the leaves.
Wrap like a burrito.
Once you've made all 15, you will have worked out your rice paper technique.
Next time will be easier. Here's some more info.

Substitute cooked shrimp (or other tasty protein) for the fried tofu.
Substitute bean sprouts or iceberg (or other crunchy veg) for the carrot or cuke.
For strict vegetarians, use soy sauce instead of fish sauce.
Skip the rice paper all together, and have a pretty little cold noodle salad.

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