Since Mai was visiting us from Czech Republic, I thought it would be fun to have her cook a meal for us - so she cooked Vietnamese! Yes, Mai is originally from Vietnam. Her family moved to Czech Republic when she was 7. I've never had Vietnamese food so I was excited to learn from Mai!
The first thing we did was a little research. Our local grocery store didn't have all of the ingredients that Mai needed. We found an international store close by and did a little shopping there!
Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
10 tablespoons fish sauce
7 tablespoons sugar
Juice of 1 1/2 limes
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 bag dried shitake mushrooms (2.5 oz bag), julienned
3/4 bag dried Jews ear mushrooms (2.5 oz bag), julienned
Handful of bean thread noodles or ramen noodles
2 pounds ground pork
1 Kohlrabi, julienned
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 teaspoon MSG
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Bag of rice paper wrappers
Oil for frying
At this point you are probably asking yourself, "What is kohlrabi?"
Kohlrabi is a vegetable, similar to a turnip or cabbage. I've never seen anything like it. When Mai was slicing and dicing, I grabbed a bite. It tasted like a cross between a radish and potato. It was refreshing and crisp.
To begin, Mai put the dried mushrooms in water and simmered them. This allows the mushrooms to rehydrate. This took about 30 minutes. Hint: Do not throw out the water. This mushroom broth is great to use in soups and sauces.
Then, Mai took the handful of bean thread noodles and soaked them in water.
Next, Mai made the dipping sauce. She peeled and sliced the kohlrabi and carrots. She then added the remaining ingredients and put that in the refrigerator to let the flavors infuse together.
When that was in the refrigerator, Mai began preparing the ingredients for her spring rolls. First she cut all of the vegetables, including the mushrooms. She took her time and make beautiful julienne cuts.
In a large bowl, she mixed the pork, mushrooms, soft noodles (cut into 1 inch pieces), kohlrabi, carrot, egg, cilantro, MSG, salt and pepper. Mix that together - this is the filling for the spring rolls.
In a saute pan, heat up 1-2 inches of oil. The oil should reach 350 degrees.
Put some water on a large dinner plate. Dip the rice paper (one at a time), then briefly let it drain. The quick dip softens the rice paper and make it pliable so that you can roll it. Mai told me that sometimes her family dips the rice paper in beer!
Place a small amount of filling on one end of the rice paper.
Fold over each side
Fry the spring rolls in hot oil, for 7-8 minutes on each side. The spring rolls should be golden brown when cooked.
This recipe makes 18-20 spring rolls.