Ok, so we are a couple weeks behind schedule. A journey is prone to setbacks. Especially when Cambodia is the first of the C countries. I have to admit I was a bit intimidated by this one. So much hoisin and chile garlic. I rolled up my mental sleeves and got to shopping.
This country took me to 4 different markets. 1. 99 Ranch in Kearny Mesa where I found the most enjoyable Vietnamese sandwich after my favorite shop K’s burned down this month. There I bought rice paper and a variety of sauces. 2. North Park Market, who does not offer the rice noodle, but the egg noodle. Which led me to 3. Sin Lee Wholesale where I found the freshest and most inexpensive bunches of mint and basil, as well as packs and packs of every make and manner of rice noodles. Also picked up sweetened condensed milk for a little iced Vietnamese coffee to get me through this culinary adventure. 4. Sprouts – for when I was at Sin Lee and traveled into the meat area I was about to pass out, and could not bring myself to select and purchase shrimp without someone holding my hand. As my buddy for the evening arrived, we went to one last market together and grabbed the shrimp. After all, tofu seemed so boring.
On that note – I made shrimp! This is the first time I’ve ever peeled sea bugs, and I did it all by myself!
What we made:
Cambodian Summer Rolls that take 3 hours the first time. A watched pot never boils. Mistake 1: don’t use a stock pot to boil water – it’s just not necessary. Mistake 2: don’t blow an industrial strength fan straight at the burner. It lessens the effect of a hot flame. Mistake 3: cover said pot.
6 cups water
1 pound medium shrimp
6 ounces uncooked rice noodles
12 (8-inch) round sheets rice paper
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 cups shredded red leaf lettuce
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic
1 garlic clove, minced
To prepare rolls, bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the shrimp to pan; cook 3 minutes or until done. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Peel shrimp; chill.
Place noodles in a large bowl; cover with boiling water. Let stand for 8 minutes; drain.
Add cold water to a large, shallow dish to a depth of 1 inch. Place 1 rice paper sheet in water. Let stand 2 minutes or until soft. Place rice paper sheet on a flat surface.
Spread 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce in the center of sheet; top with 3 shrimp, 1/4 cup lettuce, about 2 1/2 tablespoons noodles, 1 teaspoon basil, and 1 teaspoon mint. Fold sides of sheet over filling, roll up jelly-roll fashion, and gently press seam to seal. Place roll, seam side down, on a serving platter; cover to keep from drying. Repeat procedure with remaining rice paper, hoisin sauce, shrimp, shredded lettuce, noodles, basil, and mint.
To prepare dipping sauce, combine soy sauce and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.
. . .
Tips: Use a large plate as the flat surface for rolling, as a wooden cutting board sticks and tears the rice paper – leading towards disaster. Also, any leftover noodles, sauce, red leaf, and herbs make an excellent stir fry the next day.
This truly was one of the best learning experiences because it opened up a whole new arena of kitchen adventure in the hot summer days to come.
Cambodia: Snuggled up to Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Gorgeous temples and landscape. Sadly, one of the world’s poorest countries, and still home to unexploded land mines from the Cambodian civil war. Current tensions between Cambodia and neighboring Thailand. Why can’t we all just get along?
Above photo: one roll shown because we were starving and ate them as we went.