By any measure, I'm a compulsive list maker.
In addition to the usual lists -- groceries, work stuff, projects, and a "honey do" list for my husband Ted, who actually likes it -- I have my own culinary "bucket list" of skills to master and techniques to try.
On that list are a few things I wanted to make from scratch, just one time, like pita bread and puff pastry (done and done). Also on the list: tamales wrapped in corn husks, and Brazilian cheese bread made from cassava starch (done, and done).
Learning how to turn brittle, wafer-thin rice paper wrappers into supple containers for summer rolls is something I crossed off the bucket list years ago.
There are still a few things left to master, like forming sausage links in a casing, and wrapping a cake in fondant. I want to do these things once, to cross them off my list. But I'll keep rolling rice paper wrappers forever.
What are rice paper wrappers?
Flat, brittle, semi-transparent circles (6 to 14 inches in diameter), made from rice flour, salt and water, that must be moistened in lukewarm water to make them pliable. Called banh trang in Vietnamese.
How/where to store:
In the original plastic packaging, in the cupboard. They will keep indefinitely, but will become more fragile over time.
More facts about rice paper wrappers, and ingredients photos, in The Perfect Pantry:
Rice paper wrappers (Recipe: salmon and Asian pesto potstickers)
Grilled chicken and broccoli slaw wraps
Even the most humble ingredients look better in an elegant wrap. For these spring rolls, I used leftover grilled spicy chicken breast, but shredded rotisserie chicken would be great. And the broccoli slaw? A real timesaver that came in a bag from Trader Joe's. Makes 8 wraps, serving 2 as a main dish and 8 as an appetizer.
For the dressing:
1 heaping Tbsp mild miso
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp grated ginger root
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp canola oil
8 8-inch rice paper wrappers
2 cups broccoli slaw
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or sliced lengthwise
16 mint or basil leaves
Combine all of the dressing ingredients, except water, in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, and whisk until smooth. Add water, whisking in a tablespoon or two at a time, until you reach the consistency of salad dressing you like (approximately 1/4 cup). The dressing can be made ahead and refrigerated.
Toss all but 2 teaspoons of the dressing with the broccoli slaw, and set aside.
Spread a clean dish towel on the counter top in front of you. Fill a large shallow pan with hot tap water. Take one rice paper round and submerge it in the hot water for 20 seconds or until it is pliable. Transfer to the dish towel. Working quickly, take a small bit of broccoli slaw and place it in the bottom third of the round. Top that with a small amount of chicken and two basil or mint leaves.
Fold the bottom up over the filling. Fold the sides in, and roll to the top. Place seam side down on a plate, cover with a damp cloth, and continue until you have made as all of the rolls. They can be stored in the fridge covered with a damp cloth for up to an hour before serving. Top with the remaining dressing just before serving.
Other recipes that use rice paper wrappers:
Vietnamese crispy spring rolls, from Sunday Nite Dinner
Butternut squash and pumpkin seed spring rolls, from Veganomicon
Roast beef summer rolls, from YumSugar
Lemongrass chicken spring rolls with sweet sesame dipping sauce, from Revel & Feast
Gatekeeper maki, from Sushi Day
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