In our first years of marriage, Gabe and I soon realized that we ate a lot of fresh rolls. Every time we went out for Thai food, which was quite often, we would make sure to order a plate full of the rice wrapped bundles of fresh flavor. We thought it our mission to find the best in town – which really served as a great excuse to go out for more Thai food – for research purposes of course.
Another revelation occurred. We could very simply make these ourselves in our very tiny fire-engine red kitchen complete with hot chili pepper lights. After all we were practically experts on the subject, well not really, but we had tasted quite a few.
Fresh rolls quickly became a staple in our rotating dinner menu and served as a great way of cleaning out the fridge. We lovingly referred to them as “Thai Burritos”. This hearkens back to Gabe’s childhood filled with memories of his dad rummaging through the fridge and throwing his finds into a tortilla, wrapping it up in a nice complete package then calling it a “Garbage Burrito”.
With a rice paper wrapping and a slightly more appetizing yet very inaccurate name our fresh rolls are always different but never fail in taste. They are indeed, fresh. With the markets starting to fill with a wide variety of produce this is a great time to bring on the rolls.
The constant in our recipe is always an assortment of vegetables such as; carrots, cucumber, red pepper and bean sprouts. And herbs such as; cilantro, Thai basil and mint. We have also included marinated tofu, shrimp and leftover roasted chicken.
This time around we included another Thai favorite, Larb (or Laab) (a citrus and lemongrass scented ground chicken or pork salad served with butter lettuce).
- 2/3 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/3 cup fish sauce (found in Asian markets or in the Ethnic aisle of most grocers)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons Thai roasted chili paste
- 3/4 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
- 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken or pork
- 1 cup thinly sliced green onions
- 3/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass (found in Asian Markets)
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced Thai chilies or serrano chilies
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Combine the first four ingredients in a medium bowl. Save this sauce for later.
Simmer the broth in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground chicken. Simmer until cooked through, breaking up any clumps of meat with a spoon, about 8 minutes. Add green onions, shallots, lemongrass and chillies. Stir until vegetables are tender and most of liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in sauce, cilantro and mint.
You can serve this salad as is with butter lettuce or use it as a filling for your fresh rolls.
To construct the fresh rolls you will need spring roll wrappers, which you can find at any Asian market or in the ethnic aisle. To make the wrappers pliable gently place them in a shallow dish that is filled 3/4 full of very warm water. The warmer the water the faster they will soften. Once pliable carefully place the rice wrapper on a plate then begin filling. Add 3-4 tbl. of the Larb salad, a small piece of butter lettuce, julienned carrots and cucumber and a couple tender sprigs of cilantro. Wrap that all up snuggly just like you would a burrito. Serve the rolls with Peanut Sauce – homemade or a good quality pre-made from the Asian market.
These rolls are quick to assemble, impressive to serve to dinner guests (they can be made ahead) and such a delightful way to celebrate and enjoy the fresh produce that is starting to abound this time of year.