Spring Rolls with Pork, Shrimp and Mint Leaves (Goi Cuon) Yield: 6 servings
1/2 lb pork loin with fat
3 tablespoons salt, divided
1/2 lb fresh, raw medium shell-on shrimp
1 large cucumber
1 head iceberg lettuce, washed
8 rice-paper rounds (2 extra for practice or if sheet tears) (see cook’s notes)
3/4 cup fresh bean sprouts, rinsed
1 cup fresh mint leaves, rinsed
4 thin green onions or Chinese chives, cut into 5-inch lengths (see cook’s notes)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice vermicelli (bun), cut into 3 1/2-inch lengths (see cook’s notes)
Peanut Dipping Sauce (recipe included)
Rice-paper rounds, Chinese chives and rice vermicelli are sold at Asian markets.
Pour enough water in large pot to cover entire piece of pork. Add pork and 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to boil on high heat; reduce heat to medium-high and boil until pork is thoroughly cooked, about 15-20 minutes (it should not be pink). Remove pork from water and cool completely.
Meanwhile, in another pot, bring enough water to boil to cover shrimp. Add remaining salt and shrimp. Boil until just cooked. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel and devein. Cut each shrimp in half lengthwise. Cool.
Slice cooled pork against the grain into thin pieces, each roughly 2-by-1-inch. Each slice should have lean meat and fat. Place pork on plate or in bowl.
Wash and peel cucumber. Remove core and cut into 3-inch-long matchsticks. Cut lettuce into thin shreds. Measure 1 1/2 cups lettuce.
To assemble, fill large bowl with lukewarm water. Submerge 1 round of rice paper for about 2 seconds, or enough time to make rice paper pliable. If it’s too dry it will easily crack. If too wet, it will be too delicate and will tear. Place rice paper on wooden board on counter.
The ideal is to build a tightly wrapped log. Think of dividing ingredients into 6 servings. Place 1/6 of rice vermicelli on rice paper in log shape across bottom third of rice-paper circle. Add 1/6 lettuce, bean sprouts and mint leaves. On top, place 1/6 sliced pork and shrimp. Finally, add 2 pieces green onion stalk or chives. Fold over left and right sides of rice paper. Fold up bottom third, and roll tightly into roll. Diameter of roll should be about 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Set aside and prepare remaining rolls. Serve with dipping sauce (see recipe). If making ahead, place in airtight container. Cover with barely damp paper towel. Seal and refrigerate.
Peanut Sauce (Tuong Dau Phong)
Yield: 2 cups
1 Tablespoon peanut oil or Asian sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely ground unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
Heat oil in small saucepan on medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden. Drain and discard oil.
In small bowl, whisk garlic with ground peanuts, chili paste, chicken broth, peanut butter, hoisin sauce, sugar and fish sauce.
When mixture has smooth consistency, pour it into saucepan and bring to boil on medium-high heat. Boil 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low and simmer. Add cornstarch and mix well until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Stir and garnish with finely chopped peanuts.