Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Do you have a pair of laundry day underwear? A fraying, unsightly garment that either covers too much or too little, but that you just can’t throw out – because what will happen on laundry day?
Well I have a pair of laundry day running shorts. And for all practical purposes, they might as well be underwear: they’re tiny.
Whatever the question, tiny shorts are never the answer.
As I tugged at them nervously in the mirror last night before hitting the urban trails, my mama’s wise voice was bouncing around my head, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!”. She’d say that about girls at the mall wearing wildly inappropriate hemlines, or ladies at the beach whose bikins were getting devoured by their sizeable bottoms.
But you know why I still own those shorts? Because every now and then, I push the boundaries on laundry day until I’m left with nothing to wear but my reindeer jammies and nail polish, and on that day I inevitably will need to go for a run.
Here’s what you should do in an unfortunate laundry day situation. You should OWN the tiny shorts. Wear them like it was on purpose. Shoulders back, chin up, natural gait. Resist the urge to constantly fidget with them, tugging them down a centimetre with every stride. When they inevitably hike themselves up into hiding between your butt cheeks – let them.
Okay, maybe at that point it’s okay for a quick tug.
But the point is, I think if you are comfortable, and manage to twist up your face into something that is more “smile” than “bared teeth”, people might think, “Huh, she’s rocking those short shorts! Maybe I can too!” rather than “Poor girl – someone needs to buy her some more fabric…”.
Food, like fashion, should be unapologetic.
Take these salad rolls, for instance. I’ve made them no less than three times with the intention of sharing them with you. But they were never right. The first batch was made in the winter, when there was no natural light to photograph them, and the next day they were dried out. The second batch was overstuffed and tore. The third batch had wonky sprouts sticking out and the filling didn’t show through in the lovely way I’d hoped it would.
But you know what? They were delicious. And this is real life. So yes, the lighting is horrific in the iPhone snapshots I am sharing with you, but I am only telling you that because of the point I am trying to make – don’t apologize for your cooking, your photography, your singing or whatever else you like to do, even if you do it questionably. If you don’t tell people it’s bad, they might not notice! Strut it like the short shorts.
I’ve shared shots from batches two and three. Number two was made in large rice wrappers with shrimp, and number three was made in itty bitty rice wrappers with just vegetables. The little ones are great for a party, but add shrimp and you’ve got a meal.
There’s something about vietnamese salad rolls that make them utterly craveworthy. I think it’s because you’ve got all the tastes and all the textures in one little bundle. It’s the contrast of tender vermicelli noodles against vibrant, crunchy vegetables, wrapped into a chewy rice paper. The peanut dipping sauce steals the show. Nutty, tangy, sweet, salty and spicy; it hits all the spots!
- 1 tbsp salt
- 4 cups boiling water
- 4 ounces dry vermicelli noodles if they are in tied bundles, use 3
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1 carrot peeled and shredded
- 1/2 cucumber shredded
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1/4 cup packed cilantro and/or shredded mint leaves
- 20 small rice paper circles or 10 large
- To make the salad rolls: Pour boiling water into a deep baking dish and stir in salt to dissolve. Add vermicelli noodles and soak 2 minutes, until soft. Remove noodles from water (leaving the water in the dish), and transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle fish sauce and lime juice over top, and stir.
- Soak a clean dishtowel in warm water, then ring it out and lay on work surface. Take one rice wrapper and dip it in the reserved hot water for about 15 seconds, just until softened. Lay it on the damp towel, and top the bottom third with some noodles, carrot, cucumber and bean sprouts.
- Fold the bottom of the wrapper up over the filling, tuck in the sides, and roll the whole thing up. Transfer to a plate and cover with damp paper towels. Repeat with remaining rice wrappers.
- To make peanut sauce: Microwave peanut butter for 30 seconds to loosen. Stir in remaining ingredients and add hot water as needed to reach desired consistency.