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October 18, 2007

Rice paper wrappers (Recipe: salmon and Asian pesto potstickers)

Ricepaperrounds1

Sometimes, in the pantry, you've got to be ruthless.

Ted and I just designated for our upcoming yard sale an enormous platter with a turkey embossed on the bottom; we never use it for anything other than Thanksgiving turkey -- which we only make once every few years (and I think it was designed to hold a 25-pound bird). I'm also parting with a wok that's too big to fit on the stove (will we really use it on the fire pit some day?) and some of the extra whisks and spatulas I picked up at someone else's yard sale for almost nothing. And maybe a few springform pans, none of which seem to be exactly the right size for ... well ... anything.

When it comes to food in the pantry, I have a much harder time letting go. (The same can be said about cookbooks, but let's not go there.) So, as I travel through my pantry with you, looking carefully at each item and learning more about it, I've been asking myself, "Is this something I use in more than one way, in more than one dish, more than once a year?"

In the case of rice paper wrappers (banh trang), the answer is yes, yes and yes. Although associated almost exclusively with fresh Asian spring rolls (also called summer rolls or salad rolls), this ingredient passes the "more than one" test and earns its place on the pantry shelf.

Made from rice flour, salt and water, rice paper wrappers are flat, brittle, semi-transparent circles  that come in rounds from 6 to 14 inches in diameter, and also are available in quarter-rounds (shaped like little pie wedges). Sold in round plastic boxes, these noodles must be moistened in lukewarm water to make them pliable. Rice paper wrappers can keep forever in the pantry, but the older they are, the more likely they are to break or to tear when moistened.

Banh trang -- also called rice paper rounds or sheets -- have no flavor, so they are perfect carriers for any combination of taste and texture, from banana turnovers to apple strudel, to rolls filled with everything from smoked salmon to mango to swiss chard.

What do you wrap in rice paper wrappers?

Salmon and Asian pesto potstickers

Makes 20 two-bite appetizers.

Ingredients

For the pesto:
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup cashews, chopped
Large bunch of cilantro, leaves only
Large bunch of Thai basil, leaves only
1/2 cup peanut oil
Sea salt, to taste

For the packages:
1-1/2 lb skinless salmon fillets
20 dry rice paper rounds, smallest available (preferably 6-inch size)
20 whole parsley or cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp peanut oil
Dipping sauce: your choice of sweet chili sauce, soy sauce or nuoc cham

Directions

Put all pesto ingredients in a small food processor and grind to a fairly smooth paste. Set aside.

Cut the salmon into 20 two-inch squares. Dip a rice paper wrapper in warm water to soften, and lay it flat on a clean dish towel. Put a parsley or cilantro leaf in the center, then top with a piece of salmon and a teaspoon of pesto. Fold up the sides of the wrapper to form a neat square (trim edges if wrapper is too big). The damp wrappers will stick closed. Place on a plate, seam side down (the pretty leaf will be facing up, visible through the rice paper). Repeat until all of the salmon and rice papers are used.

Heat peanut oil in a frying pan and cook the parcels, sealed side down, for 3 minutes until brown on the bottom. Transfer to a steamer set over boiling water and steam 4-6 minutes, OR add 1/2 cup water to the frying pan, cover, and turn the heat to simmer for 4-6 minutes. Check every couple of minutes to make sure there is still enough water in the pan to create steam. Serve hot, room temperature, or cold, with dipping sauce of your choice.

*** Note: The packages can be made ahead and fried ahead of time, covered with plastic wrap, and chilled. Steam when needed, or cook completely in advance and serve cold or at room temperature. You can also freeze the parcels before cooking.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Nime chow (fresh Vietnamese salad rolls) 
Vegetable dumplings

Comments

For me, spring rolls mean deep-fried rice paper rolls with meat/crab filling then served with nuoc cham. The fresh spring rolls come next, but quite different from what we call summer roll in the west.

My fav way of using banh trang is to roll sugarcane prawn or grilled fish. We normally place the cooked fish with herbs on the table then everyone can do the rolling themselves. :)

I wrap roast salmon with hoisin sauce and marinated cucumber. but mostly I just want to go to your yardsale!

What a fascinating post, Lydia! Yes, I do have a stash of rice wrappers in my pantry, and the *only* thing I have used them for is summer rolls filled with cubes of fried tofu, lettuce and cuke/carrots.
Your idea with the pesto potstickers is sooo delicious! And thank you for the link to the article about the cheese sticks- unbelievable! I am going to try those very soon.

Gee, I am impressed with your pantry discipline, and need to follow your example. Your discussion of rice wrappers, however is very inspiring, and I need to eat what's in my pantry before engaging in any more nouveau cooking.

I have never used rice paper wrappers, my dear friend, and you've certainly made me curious!
Those ideas to use the wrappers are very appealing!

Spring rolls would be the only thing that would come to mind if I had rice paper wrappers...so that would go first in my pantry ;)
If I lived near you, I would beg and borrow all your springform pans :) I have too many recipes that need it. I should probably just buy one soon...lazy me.

Anh, that sounds like a wonderful way of serving fish.

Lobster, oh how I wish you could be here -- I'm really trying to "recycle" a lot of kitchen things, to make room for more, of course! But after years of teaching cooking classes, I have so many multiples of so many things that I just don't have room to store it all.

Nupur, these little bundles are just a method -- you can wrap anything in the rice paper wrappers once you are comfortable with moistening and rolling them. It does take practice, and I've poked quite a few holes in my time....

Alexandra, I have such fun finding things buried in the recesses of the pantry! Hope you make some wonderful discoveries, too.

Patricia, let me know if you have trouble finding these, and I'll put some aside to send to you!

Nabeela, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. If you lived near me, you would definitely have to come to the yard sale (it's next weekend!).

I've never worked with rice papers, but you make it sound so easy. I do have a similar collection of springform pans that never seem to match the size a recipe calls for. It may be time for a yard sale ...

I love when the rice papers are translucent when cooked and you can see what's inside! :) Great post.

I don't know why but I started thinking of a non-stick transparent mat for the kitchen when I see these rice paper wraps. Well, these are not in my pantry. Can I be ruthless and ransack your pantry for it? "P

TW, I'm so glad to hear you say that about the pans. I guess if I were a more confident baker, I'd be able to adjust. Do try the rice papers; they are easy, though at first you feel a bit all-thumbs with them.

Hillary, I love that too.

Tigerfish, you are welcome to rummage around in my pantry any time!

I always use my rice paper wrappers for summer rolls, which I adore. Why haven't I made potstickers with them? This is going to change. Very soon.

Susan, please let me know what you make -- I'm always looking for new ways to use rice paper wrappers.

I love fish Hilda, so I love this recipe, it looks wonderful. xxxGloria

Some friends of mine just ate at a restaurant in Chicago where the menus were written on edible rice paper wrappers with black squid ink! After they ordered, they ate the menu!

Oh I love these!!! Especially the Vietnamese Poh Piahs, they're lovely & healthy:)
Now you've given me an idea to make potstickers with them:)
Thanks Lydia:)

Oh I am afraid to admit that I could donate my barely used ricepapers to your yard sale! I love them in typical rice rolls, but mine always rip. I am intrigued by your recipes and never realized you could bake them....

Gloria, this is really a fun way to use rice paper wrapers!

Kathy, that is the most extraordinarily wonderful idea. Would love to know the name of that restaurant; it would be on my must-do list for next trip to Chicago.

Valentina, I've never made Poh Pia, but I love eating them when we go out -- there is a quasi-Malaysian restaurant that makes wonderful rolls.

Callipygia, I learned (the hard way) that the reason the wrappers rip is often because they are not fresh. Now, I know it seems odd that something dry and brittle can be fresh, or not fresh, but apparently they can. I always try to buy from a market that has a lot of turnover. And even then, sometimes I get a package where every one in it will break or tear.

Thank you....I have had rice paper circles and quarter circles languishing in my pantry for 2 years, waiting for a purpose (on sale, Chinese New Year, the fact that I had no idea what to do with them didn't stop me from stocking up)..

I've never tried these either, I've read about them before though, and think the name 'potsticker' is just great!

Katie, I'm afraid to say that after two years, you should probably toss those rice paper wrappers and buy fresh ones. They're good for practice, but you'll find them brittle and frustrating.

Kelly-Jane, using rice paper wrappers is one of those things, like rolling sushi, that looks harder than it is. Once you get the hang of it, you can wrap pretty much anything. Hope you'll try them! (and the name potsticker? Because, of course, one side of the dumpling gets so brown that it can stick to the pot!)

I only use these for spring rolls but potstickers sound great!

Amy, it's fun to try rolling up all sorts of things in these rice paper wrappers. I've done a kind of burrito, and sushi. It's fun!

I am in need of recipes on rice paper to potstickers. Help me find such!

Jerker, you might start with this one!

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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