Lunch makes or breaks my day. If it’s good, I cruise through the whole afternoon on the contents of my midday tupperware, don’t get really hungry again til about 4 or 5, and by then, I can pop a couple almonds, some honey wheat pretzels, or a piece of the dark chocolate bar I stash in my first drawer (don’t tell), any of which will easily hold me over until dinner. If it’s bad, I’m hungry at 1:30 and every minute thereafter, until my next real meal. I’m fidgety and tired, fussy and hungry. The upshot? If lunch is bad, the day is, like, the total opposite of awesome.
It’s with this in mind that I’ve launched my impromptu Good Things for Lunch campaign. You know, the one that brought you zucchini tart, and edamame cabbage salad, and yam and chickpea salad too. What’s next, you ask? Good things.
In today’s post, The Other Good Lunch I Had Last Week: rice paper rolls. They’re filling, fresh-tasting, and nutritious — all in all, a great lunch food. They can be made in advance, packed into a tupperware and eaten at will. The dipping sauce isn’t too bad, either. And best of all, they’re truly a blank slate that will accommodate almost anything your fridge has to offer.
Moi, I used avocado, carrots, cucumber, parsley, cilantro, mint, slices of nori (seaweed sheets for sushi), shelled edamame, and slices of asian-flavored soy. Steamed shrimp are the most common addition, and basically anything else you have in your fridge would work as well.
The basic method: prepare a big bowl of tepid water (large enough to accommodate your rice paper — if the bowl is too small, the rice paper sheets will crack). Set up a mise en place, “everything in place,” essentially a workstation where all your ingredients are chopped and ready to go. Also have a large plate, the flatter the better, ready to use as the assembly station for your rolls. Stick your first sheet of rice paper in the water, slowly, so as not to crack it. Make sure it is completely submerged. Let it sit there between 25-45 seconds, until it is softer than pliable but not totally mushy. Take it out of the water, let the excess drip off, and lay it flat on your plate. Make a mound of various ingredients in the center of the paper, but slightly towards you (leaving about 2/3 of the roll on the far side of the ingredients and 1/3 on your side — see the pic above). Fold the sides in; then roll up the rice paper away from you, as pictured.
Serve rolls with any Asian peanut sauce. Here’s a good recipe:
Spicy Peanut Sauce
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1 tablespoon tomato paste
* 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
* 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
* 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* 3/4 cup water
In a small saucepan cook garlic and red pepper flakes in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until garlic is golden. Whisk in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, whisking. Simmer sauce, whisking, until thickened, about 1 minute. Sauce may be made 3 days ahead and chilled, covered.
Serve sauce warm or at room temperature.