Since moving to Seattle, I've come to appreciate (and crave) a wide array of Asian cuisines. There aren't many other cities offering first-rate Laotian, Indonesian and Malaysian food within a 1 mile radius, not to mention hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurants and Vietnamese Pho shops on just about every corner. So when I get a hankering for crispy fried egg rolls, I don't have to go far. And when it's hot outside, fresh spring rolls are just the ticket... which brings me to the subject at hand.
The other day I was watching one of my favorite programs, Simply Ming, on PBS. He dedicated an entire show to rolls, both fried and fresh. My mouth watered as I mentally penciled them into the upcoming week's menu. But somehow those delicious plans slipped through the cracks...
Roughly a week later, my good friend Christie, coincidentally, told me about her recent spring roll kick with pan-fried tempeh, carrot, zucchini and avocado. I got really excited and told her all about Ming's show and my good intentions. I knew it was time.
So after an especially gluttonous week (Tristan graduated from law school, meaning many celebratory dinners of foie gras, oysters, gougeres, truffles, lemon bars, champagne, wine, cheese... you get the picture), I was ready for some fresh, clean food. I made a batch containing delicately poached shrimp, fresh produce, bean thread noodles and crushed peanuts, all wrapped inside ultra-thin rice papers. Not only did I get the roughage and antioxidants I so desperately needed, but the Asian flavor I craved.
Shrimp and Avocado Spring Rolls
The coconut peanut sauce can be replaced with a lighter dipping sauce made of fish sauce, lime juice and a pinch of sugar.
Round rice papers (about 8-inches across)
Cooked bean thread noodles
Pour a layer of hot water in the bottom of a pie plate. Submerge one rice paper under the water and let stand until softened, about 30 seconds. Remove from water and place on a clean kitchen towel. Just a bit below the middle, place a few shrimp in a horizontal row, about 4-inches across, depending on how large you'd like your rolls. Top with sliced avocado, carrot, cucumber, cilantro sprigs, a small mound of noodles and a sprinkling of peanuts. Roll in the same fashion as a burrito by first folding in the sides, then, starting at the bottom, begin rolling upwards. When finished, cover with a wet paper towel while the remaining rolls are assembled.
Coconut Peanut Sauce
1/3 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 tablespoon tamari
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons hot pepper oil
1/2 cup + coconut milk
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk, over low heat, until smooth and warm. If sauce becomes too thick, add extra coconut milk to thin. Serve warm with spring rolls.