After my delicious dinner at To Chau, I was inspired to attempt more Asian cooking. This meant I had to first recipe hunt, then go to an Asian market and ingredient hunt. Viva la Vietnamese cuisine! I’m ready for a challenge!
“I look tasty. But do I taste tasty?”
I found my spring roll ingredients (rice spring roll wrappers, noodles and spring roll sauce), pho base and pho noodles at Lucky Market. I’ve given somewhat of a rundown of my first and second experiences at Lucky Market in a previous post.
And I know the pho recipe isn’t a “real” recipe, but if you’ve ever seen how pho broth is made, you’ll understand why I used a paste. And if you like pho and want to make it in your own home, here’s a start!
Remember, I’m cooking for one here.
Fresh Spring Rolls
2 rice wrappers
Pho noodles (or any kind of soft noodles)
Cucumbers, julienne (don’t use the center/seedy part)
Green peppers, julienne
Green onions, sliced
Avocado, small slices
1/4 tsp sesame oil
salt, black pepper and red pepper (optional) to taste
Chicken or pork – Strip cut into thin slices
Spring roll sauce
Depending on how big your wrappers are and combination preference, you’ll need various amounts of vegetables. You’ll want one layer of noodles, a thick layer of lettuce, and then any other vegetables you’d like, including avocado. Then top with a few slices of meat and a couple of basil leaves (Thai basil if you have it handy, otherwise any fresh basil will do). Based on that, cut your vegetables and put all but the avocado in a bowl. Toss with sesame (or olive) oil, and then sprinkle with salt and both peppers and toss again.
As the vegetables are marinating, soften your rice wrapper (which are purchased hard) by laying it in warm water until it’s soft enough to eat. Pull the rice wrapper out and let it dry somewhat. It’ll be kind of like plastic wrap, sticking to itself, so try to keep it as flat as possible.
Start with a layer of noodles in the center, close to the front edge of the wrapper. Top with the vegetable mixture, and add the slices of avocado. Add the slices of meat and the basil leaves. Fold the two sides over and then pull over the front edge to make an envelope holding the filling. Roll the spring roll, keeping everything as tight together as possible. When it’s rolled up, place seam side down on a plate. Garnish with a ramekin of spring roll sauce, which you can make or buy. Since this was my first spring roll experience, I bought my sauce. And it did the trick. Someday I’ll make my own!
3 oz pho noodles
1 spoonful of beef pho paste (I used about a tablespoon, but the package says one spoonful)
3 cups of water
Two thin slices of onion, broken apart into rings
1/2 tsp fish sauce, to taste (you could also use salt or soy sauce if you don’t have fish sauce)
Thai basil (optional)
2 ounces sirloin steak (optional – I didn’t use meat in this recipe)
Garnishes (all optional)
1 jalapeno (I cook mine in for a few minutes because I like spicy)
Bring one pot of water for your pho noodles to a boil. When the water boils, add the pho noodles. Cook until tender, according to package instructions. This took about 6 minutes for me.
Meanwhile, in a second pot, add pho paste and onion rings to three cups of water and bring to a boil. When I tasted my broth as it warmed up, I realized it had a good flavor but needed salt. I added just a little bit of fish sauce (which is similar in saltiness to soy sauce) to my broth. It’s really salty so add with caution. I probably added about 1/2 a teaspoon. You could do the same thing with salt, or even soy sauce. This is assuming you don’t like the broth as it tastes.
After the broth cooks for several minutes and is a satisfactory taste and saltiness, you can add jalapenos right in the pot. This will allow more of the jalapeno flavor to cook right in. If you’re sharing and everyone likes different spiciness, simply use the jalapeno as a garnish.
When your pho noodles are done cooking, drain, then rinse with cold water. Rinsing the noodles stops them from cooking further.
Put the cooled noodles in the bottom of your soup bowl. If you are using cilantro or basil, add them on top of the noodles. Then top with your hot soup broth. Add garnishes to taste.
If you want to use meat, you can also add it on top of the noodles, prior to dumping the broth. Dumping the hot broth over the meat is supposed to cook it. If I were going to use meat, I’d get sirloin steak (or any steak I’m comfortable eating less than well done). You probably only need about 1-2 ounces.
And that’s it! All in all, it took less than 15 minutes to put this entire meal together. I brought my pho noodle water to a boil at the same time I started the pho broth. I cut up my spring roll veggies and wrapped the spring rolls while my broth and noodles were cooking.
The nice thing about both of these recipes is you can make them to meet your tastes. You can add whatever meats or vegetables you want to the spring rolls. And you can add any spices or meats to the pho.
You can see the rice wrappers are very hard to begin with. But as you soak them in water they soften up. I think the package said soak them for a minute. I let mine soak as I was chopping vegetables. After a few minutes I removed them, dried the plate, and let the wrapper dry out somewhat on the plate.
Clockwise from the lower left: lettuce (shredded into strips), green peppers (center), pho noodles (top), carrots, and cucumbers (next to the lettuce).
Where I got it:
- Lee Brand Beef Pho Paste
- Spring roll sauce
- Rice spring roll wrappers
- Pho noodles
Farmer’s Market (21st and Ridge)
- White onion