Thursday, June 30, 2011

In the Kitchen: Vietnamese Rice Paper Roll with Ham, Egg and Bulgogi Sauce

Thursday, June 30, 2011
Vietnamese Rice Paper Roll with Ham, Egg and Bulgogi Sauce

I have been highly enamoured with the Vietnamese Rice Paper for the longest time. So enamoured I stowed one packet of rice paper into my luggage when I set off for Europe. It's so affordable, so versatile, so easy. Since my place in Germany had such a well equipped kitchen, I was able to easily satisfy my rice paper fantasies - I baked a whole goose leg and wrapped my rice paper roll with lettuce, juicy goose meat, asian noodles and Japanese tamago. That same afternoon, my Vietnamese rice paper roll was filled with lettuce, crispy battered prawns, asian noodles, home-made Vietnamese sweet chilli sauce and Thai-style omelette strips. As you can see, my fantasies were blasphemous but absolutely delicious. They were also fancy and time-consuming.


Yesterday, M and I were shopping for some snacks because we were planning to stay home and watch a movie. Then a rice paper roll craving hit me. I racked my brains for something that could be done in 10 minutes and came up with this. We were already waiting in line at the cashier with a bag of crispy seaweed in hand when I literally ran off to grab the ingredients (which weren't many, fortunately). All you really have to do is cook the egg (I chose to hard boil it) and cut the cucumber into strips. And yet, the simplicity is not dimensionless - the spicy bulgogi sauce gives a lovely kick and the cucumber strips add a cheerful crunch while neutralizing the salty flavours from the ham and sauce.  Putting this together was almost effortless, yet biting into it was utterly satisfying. This is definitely my new favourite afternoon snack. I just wish my photos were more convincing. I guess I could have have made sure the roll looked picture perfect before posting but I am way too eager to share the versatility of Vietnamese rice paper. It's too underrated! The truth is, I wouldn't call this a recipe as much as I would call it a concept. You can substitute the ingredients with so many others that the possibilities are seriously endless. Take a leap of faith and get creative!

Vietnamese Rice Paper Roll with Ham, Egg and Bulgogi Sauce
Makes 6 rolls

3 eggs
3 slices of ham
1 japanese cucumber (the thinner variety)
Spicy bulgogi sauce

Boil enough water in a pot (so that the eggs are submerged when added). When water starts to boil, lower the eggs into the pot with a ladle (to prevent them from cracking). Time for 6 minutes if you want the yolk to be a little squishy as pictured, 8 minutes for one with a slightly soft center, and 9 minutes for a perfectly hard boiled egg.

During this time, wash the cucumber. I swear by cutting the top part of the cucumber and rubbing the parts against each other, then repeating for the bottom part, to take away any bitterness. Slice the cucumber into a few parts, then slice each part into halves and each half into quarters. You may have to continue halving the cucumbers depending on its size. When the egg is done, drain the hot water in the pot and fill it with cold water to cool the eggs before peeling. Slice the boiled eggs into halves and then quarters.

Cut the 3 strips of ham into halves. Dip the rice paper in water and place it on a plate. You really just have to make sure that the rice paper has been fully in contact with water. Don't worry that it's still stiff because in fact the stiffness will allow you to build better rolls, and it will have completely softened by the time you finish assembling the ingredients. Place the halved slice of ham on the lower part of the roll. Use enough bulgogi sauce to spread a thin layer on the ham. Place the cucumber strips on the ham, followed by two quarters of the hard boiled egg. Wrap the roll from the bottom, nudging the ingredients in neatly so that the roll remains compact. Repeat for each roll and serve immediately.

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