Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vietnamese Lettuce Parcels - Cha Gio

Having got right into making summer rolls lately with softened rice paper wrapped around lots of lovely fillings like prawns, cucumber, herbs, shredded lettuce and the like I had a hankering for the cooked variety served hot inside cold lettuce wraps with fresh herbs and cucumber for coolness and chilli sauce for prickly heat. I used to make them a lot in the years after I left home, they seemed wonderfully exotic and are pretty straightforward.

The original idea came from Charmaine Solomon's Complete Asian Cookbook where she advises that rice papers may be difficult to find so to use wonton wrappers instead. When I came across rice paper wrappers in a Chinese supermarket I took it as a sign and made my first batch of these little delights. I became quite adept at stuffing them and wrapping them and serving them up exquisitely crisp and delicious. They were a brilliant starter to many an Asian feast. And a delight crispy and cold next day as well earned treat for the cook.

Then, about the time I met the man, I stopped making them. It is coincidence, the timing, not an intentional thing. When I realised how long it has been I was a bit surprised, they really are good and the kind of thing we both seriously like and yet it was as if I had forgotten them entirely. Left behind unintentionally I ceased to remember their existence, no longer there to be considered as an option for any occasion. I don't know why. Perhaps it is like the wider world of fashion that things come and go without apparent rhyme or reason. And just as foolish!

Fried Pork & Prawn Rolls

One of the most popular snacks in Vietnam - try them once and you will know why

Makes about 20

1/2 cup cellophane noodles
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 spring onions, finley sliced white and green
250g pork mince
100g raw prawns, deveined and roughly chopped
1 tbspn fish sauce
1 tspn dark soy sauce
1 tbspn ginger, peeled and very very finely diced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
rice paper wrappers
Vegetable oil for frying
lettuce leaves
fresh mint and fresh holy basil
cucumber peeled and cut into long strips chilli sauce

Soak the cellophane noodles in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain and cut into short - 3cm/an inch - lengths. Mix with the shallot, spring onions, pork, prawns, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger and chilli. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Use a pie dish - half fill with warm water. Put a rice paper wrapper into the water and let it soften for a minute. Take it out and put it onto a board and put the next wrapper in to soak. PUt about a tablespoon of the filling onto the centre of the first rice paper. Fold the rice paper over the filling till it is completely enclosed, making sure the moist edges seal. Put onto a dinner plate, take the next sheet from the water and repeat till all the filling is used.

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan over a medium flame and fry the parcels a few at a time. They take about 3 minutes on each side - if the oil is too hot the filling won't cook properly. When golden put onto a wire rack and into a low oven till all the wraps are cooked.

Serve with the lettuce, herbs, cucumber and chilli sauce in separate bowls. Take a lettuce leaf, add herbs and cucumber, put a hot rice wrap on top then dollop with chilli sauce. Wrap the lettuce around the lot and eat.

Couldn't believe how brilliant they (still) are. They have the lot - hot inside cold, chilli, burst of fresh herbs and a hit of golden crunch. Total WOW.

So glad to welcome them back to the repertoire that I'm racking my brains to think what else I used to know. Have you remembered anything good lately?


Tracey@Internationalfoodie said...

Oohhh Delish - I Love, Love, Love Vietnamese inspired dishes! Will definitely be trying these soon! Its great when you rediscover old favourites.

bron said...

Ah yes! Started me on a Viet fest, had rare beef with nuoc cham and really hot cabbage salad last night, with fabulous leftovers for lunch, wondering what will be next!

Ailbhe said...

Ooo I've had hot Vietnamese rolls and cold ones but never hot wrapped in cold lettuce which sounds like an excellent crunchy idea. Another good one to try soon!

bron said...

Ali the hot/cold combo seriously ratchets up the wow factor.

tiina { sparkling ink } said...

Looks like the perfect dish for an easy going weekend night. I'll save the recipe! Have a lovely end of July!

bron said...

They really are Tiina - we had a big pile of them Friday night and it was great - perfect end to the week.

Hope you're enjoying July too!

Margie said...

It's great that you re-discovered these Vietnamese parcels. The combination of flavors and textures sound like a "total Wow" for sure! I'm looking forward to following your Feasts.

bron said...

Welcome Margie - I'm delighted I found your blog too. And if you make these little beauties you'll be back here for more!