Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Recipe: Pomelo Salad and Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Now that the stock for pho was boiling, I'd decided the side dishes should be a Thai pomelo salad and Vietnamese Spring Rolls. First, the pomelo salad. Find yourself some Thai pomelos in the market, or Malaysian pomelos. I must admit, I got these in Phuket and carried them home in my duffel bag.

The difference between Thai pomelos and regular Malaysian pomelos, is that the Thai ones have this jewelled peach colour and are much smaller, juicier and sweeter. The Malaysian ones tend to be a bit more astringent and sometimes have a disappointing dryness or bitterness. The bowl in front are the Thai pomelo and the bowl at the back are the duller Malaysian pomelo.

The recipe for pomelo salad is slightly more complex and I must say, I didn't many take pictures of the interim steps. Basically you need to make a sauce. You take 2 generous tablespoons of tamarind paste (pictured below, yes, I know it looks like turd) and heat it with water and 2 heaped tablespoons of Thai palm sugar. Whisk it into a thickish sauce and then sift away the seeds and flesh of the tamarind, which should leave you with a much more fluid sauce.

Note, there are three different kinds of palm sugar, one is the brown peaty gula melaka that is commonly used in South East Asia. The second is the Indian palm sugar and the third is the Thai palm sugar which is a thick, bright mustard yellow paste. Don't use the wrong one!

This will be the sauce for the pomelo salad. Mix in some chilli- this is done by frying dried chilli, then crushing it in a motar and pestle to form fine chilli flakes. Don't put in too much chilli or no one will be able to eat your salad, those dried chillis are potent!

Crumble up the pomelo and add fried shallots, dried coconut flakes, 2 Tbsp of fish sauce, finely sliced chives and cilantro and fresh red chilli (discard the seeds). You can make the shallots and coconut from scratch by slicing and deep frying shallots and dry-frying fresh coconut and pounding it into fine flakes. Saute a handful of fresh prawns and toss them in, then drizzle the sauce over and serve.

For the Vietnamese spring rolls, mix l pound of ground pork with some cornflour, 2 Tbsp rice wine, oyster sauce and crack an egg into it. The recipe technically says 1 pound, I just go with 50g for each person eating, so this was about 800g worth of pork.

The vegetables you want to put in are
1 small onion (minced)
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/4 cup finely grated cabbage (optional)
1 green onion, minced
1 cup bean sprouts
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

I skip the traditional carrots because I'm really weird, I don't like to see orange inside my spring rolls and also, it has a longer cooking time then the other vegetables. I sometimes double the amount of beansprouts though, for a crunchier spring roll. Then you want to get 1 package or 4 ounces of vermicelli soaked in hot water for 15 minutes, then drained and chopped and add that to the mix. Add the pork mix to the vegetable mix and pack them all together. Yes, you can use your hands.

Get frozen spring roll wrappers (the dry rice wraps are good too, just more difficult to work with) and lay the wrapper diagonally in a diamond shape. Spoon in your mixture. Basically, you notice that the concept of a spring roll is essentially vegetarian, the pork just holds the bits together.

You imagine that spring roll wrapping is one of those things that gets passed down to all Chinese children but let me tell you it is not true! There is definitely some technique involved, firstly, in using the wrapper on a diagonal and secondly, tucking the ends back into the fold and sealing it with warm water.

In fact, maybe we should all be buying Synear (SYNF.SP), China's leading frozen dumpling manufacturer, listed in Singapore because I'm convinced in a generation's time, China will all eating frozen dumplings because all the women are out working rather than rolling wrappers.

This is what you should wind up with though. Then when your guests come, you want to fry these in oil. Deep fry yeah, so the oil must cover the spring rolls, not some sort of pan-fry toasty job. A tip, if you want crunchy, crisp spring rolls, you deep fry your dumplings twice. Once to brown the skin and cook the insides, then let it cool and fry them in the oil again so that the skin crisps through and hardens slightly.

Bon Appetit!

No comments: