Pearl: the basics: 1. Rice Paper Rolls

Right Pearl: if you’re going to survive in your new separate life, you’re going to have to (occasionally) cook yourself some food. So let’s get started with some basic, nourishing and easy options.

1. Rice Paper Rolls (aka Summer Rolls; Fresh Spring Rolls; etc.)

Possibly the simplest, quickest, cheapest and healthiest option.

You will need:

  • Bahn Trang = Rice papers. Buy the larger square ones for preference. These keep indefinitely. You just have to make sure you’ve got enough on hand before you start.
  • Rice vermicelli (the thinnest noodle made out of rice)
  • 1 tin tuna (or about 200g fresh fish, fried)
  • Julienned vegetables such as carrot, cucumber, beans, lettuce, cabbage, bean sprouts, etc.
  • Fresh mint and/or Vietnamese mint
  • Peanuts
  • Dipping sauce (either a bought, ready-made one or make your own using rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, chilli, garlic, sugar, carrot and water)

To make (allow 15-20 mins prep)

1. Place about 1 layer of rice vermicelli in a large bowl and pour a jugful of boiling water over it. As it softens make sure all of it is pushed under water. Leave to soak until you’re ready to serve (about 20 mins).

2. Cut whole veges into julienne strips (i.e. about matchstick size, as long as you like). Lay out on a platter along with torn up mint leaves, beansprouts and drained vermicelli.

3. In a dry pan (i.e. a frying pan without oil) roast a handful of peanuts until they’re starting to colour. It doesn’t matter if they get to the point of having a few burnt spots. Put out onto a chopping board and leave to cool for a few minutes before roughly chopping up.

4. Empty your tin of tuna (allow one large tin per about 3-4 people) into a bowl after draining most of the oil and juice off first.

5. Part-fill a couple of bowls with dipping sauce. If making your own, in a large jar, measuring with a large serving spoon, add 1 measure sugar, 3 measures rice wine vinegar, 3 measures water, 2 measures fish sauce, finely chop 2 cloves garlic and 2 thai chillis, and a measure of finely julienned carrot. Put a lid on the jar and shake to completely dissolve the suguar. This will keep pretty indefinitely in the fridge.

6. Put all of your ingredients on the table along with a low-sided vessel large enough to hold a whole rice paper, filled with cold tap water (a roasting or flat baking dish is ideal).

7. Dip a sheet of rice paper in the water, lay on a flat plate and assemble fillings to your taste, folding over bottom and top before rolling up to prevent filling dropping out. Once assembled these will keep pretty well for, say, lunch the next day. Dip into sauce before eating.

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