Thursday 3 March 2011

PPN Spring Rolls, Salad, Changes and CNY

My systems are working well when I see it is Presto Pasta Nights' 4th birthday and I can find a special pasta dish on my delicious bookmarks. Success! I will tell you more about these spring rolls down the page but first, I wanted to reflect a little on the changing of the seasons.

March brings us into Autumn down under. It has been a strange summer of rain, floods, bushfires, cyclones and then the Christchurch earthquake. It brings a lot of suffering for one person to comprehend. Thankfully the flip side of this is seeing so many good hearted people and the indomitable human spirit that has got us where we are today.

Closer to home, life seems to bring us many changes. Sylvia, who turned two last week, is no longer a baby. She is full of constant change. At home we are looking forward to some improvements to our kitchen (but more of that later). My workplace is one change after another. We call it transition. This week has brought a change in employer for me, while doing the same job.

I will miss my university that has employed me for the past 7 years. It has been as frustrating as it has been exciting to work there. Yet it was one of my first loves of adulthood. All I wanted after school was to study there and one of my happiest moments was standing in the Old Law Quad being photographed on my graduation day. But onwards and upwards. I am now part of a new institute that I hope will grow up into an important institution.

With so much change, I have been meaning to post a few quicklinks for Chinese New Year from a few weeks back. Last year I was pleased to go to Steph's CNY potluck and learn a little about CNY. This year I have enjoyed learning more through a few interesting blog posts:
  • My friend Yaz has recently moved to Hong Kong and started a blog about settling in. It was interesting to see his photos of some of the CNY displays and to read about making Year Cake, aka Nian Gaoyaz.
  • K and Steph wrote about their CNY Banquet at the Veggie Kitchen.
  • Helen passed on some CNY tips from Ken Hom.
  • Anh posted some of her gorgeous photos for the Lunar New Year in Hanoi and reminded us that not only is it year of the rabbit in China but also the year of the cat in Vietnam.
Onto the food. I am indebted to the PPN founder Ruth of Once Upon a Feast for sharing her enthusiasm for all things pasta and expanding my pasta repertoire. Pasta always meant Italian until I "met" Ruth. The spring rolls that I am sending to Ruth for this week's PPN would never have counted as pasta a few years back. But now I know they will be welcome among the amazingly diverse display of pasta that will be on show in the round up.

As a homage to PPN I even baked them to spell out the initials. If I had the time and space I would have made it a bit more fancy but this was as much fun as was possible while racing around to get dinner last night.

I first made this baked spring roll recipe years ago and am sorry not to have recorded the source. Fortunately I had seen Lisa's brilliant idea of using rice paper roll wrappers because these are far easier to buy locally than spring roll wrappers. They also make a crispy chewy wrapper that is effortlessly vegan and gluten free. Though it seems like this is just a baked rice paper roll, the baked ingredients blend and thicken slightly in the process of baking them so they taste quite different.

I whipped up a dipping sauce easily after having found a good combination for my rice paper rolls. A side dish was more of a challenge. I found I had bought far too many snow peas and remembered a fantastic Japanese snow pea salad that I have made a few times. I thought it was just right but E said he would like chips with his spring rolls (he also liked vegan queso sauce on his spring rolls and said it made them just like Findus canneloni! huh!). Maybe I will try making fried rice another time as a compromise. No matter how they are served, I think these spring rolls are perfect for the cooler days when it is no problem to turn on the oven.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: WHB Potluck pumpkin cheesecake brownies
This time two years ago: Citrus Grape Cake
This time three years ago: Sydney Road – one street, two festivals

Baked Rice Paper Spring Rolls
makes 20 spring rolls
  • 50g dried rice vermicelli noodles
  • 1 largish carrot, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup shredded Chinese cabbage (I used wombok)
  • kernels of 1 corn cob
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 150g firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 garlic clove. crushed
  • 1 tsp pickled sushi (or fresh) ginger, finely chopped
  • 20 spring rolls wrappers (or rice paper roll wrappers)
  • oil spray (or 1 beaten egg)
Soak vermicelli noodles in boiling water for 5 minutes and then drain. Add remaining vegies and seasoning. Mix well.

If using spring rolls wrappers, keep covered and use one at a time. If using rice paper rolls wrappers, have a large shallow bowl of water to soak each wrapper in for about 10 seconds before placing flat on a board. Place a dessertspoon of filling on the one side of the wrapper. Fold edge of wrapper over the filling. Fold the sides over and then roll up so the filling is wrapped in the rest of the wrapper.

Preheat oven to 210 C (I did 220 C). Place spring rolls on a tray lined with baking paper or silicone. The recipe said to leave in the fridge for 30 minutes so I left mine at room temperature for 15 minutes. Spray with oil or brush with beaten egg.

Bake spring rolls for about 20-25 minutes or until crispy - it will be hardly brown and will soften slightly if you let it cool for a while but will remain pleasingly chewy. I served mine with a dipping sauce of tamari, chilli paste, umeboshi vinegar and a little water to make it go further.

Japanese Snow Pea Salad
adapted from Vegie Food
serves about 4
  • 250g snow peas, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 1 small spring onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 handfuls of snow pea sprouts (I used bean sprouts)
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp dashi
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
Pour hot water over the snow peas and leave about 1 minute. Rinse under cold water and drain. Add red capsicum, sprouts, spring onions. Toast the sesame seeds on a dry frypan til golden brown. Mix the rest of the ingredients to make the Japanese dressing. Toss the vegies with the dressing and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the salad to serve.

On the stereo:
Have one on me: Joanna Newsom


  1. Somehow I never even realized that spring rolls had vermicelli in them! Definitely a great PPN entry!

    I'm never really a fan of change, but I think it's just the xenophobe in me. Good luck with everything!

  2. Defo a lot of changes happening fo ryou at the mo, I hope they are all exciting for you (apart from the autumn one casue that is just plain suckie!)
    Love the spring rolls, and the photo where you have spelled out PPN ;0)

  3. These rice paper rolls look fabulous! I love anything that is Asian inspired. Good luck with the changes - I hope all goes well.

  4. Glad to hear that you liked them. And it suer has been a strange o' summer over this side of the country :(

  5. Both the spring rolls and the salad look delicious. Like E, my boys would be opting for some chips as a side too. Thanks for the tips on rolling with spring roll and rice paper roll wrappers, my last attempt at spring rolls was tasty but not aesthetically pleasing!

  6. I'm staring down the barrel of self-imposed change myself, and trying not to panic. Your calm and optimistic approach to changes in your life gives me faith :)

  7. What a fantastic entry to Presto Pasta Night's big celebration. Thanks so much for such a tasty treat. I love the addition of vermicelli to the rolls and the notion of baking them. Thanks again for being such a terrific PPNer!

  8. Thanks Joanne - I am not sure if vermicelli is in all spring rolls but it works well in this one - and as for change, I hate it, and yet I do find it fascinating in sylvia

    Thanks Chele - your comment about autumn made me laugh as one change I love is the change of season and I love autumn leaves and it getting cooler - I'd much prefer this than a lot of other changes right now

    Thanks Cakelaw - I love asian food but get a bit intimidated by it so I am especially excited when I find asian recipes that work for me

    Thanks Lisa - the rice paper wrappers were a great idea and I have just bought a rice paper wrapper gadget so can't wait to try these again

    Thanks Mel - there are so many more interesting things than chips in this world! good luck with the rolling spring rolls - not sure if it is different with the spring roll wrappers because it is years since I used them - but did check them out at minh phat today

    Thanks Hannah - I am so glad I convinced you I am calm and optimistic about change - now I just have to convince myself :-) good luck with your change

    Thanks Ruth - so much easier to bake than deep fry and vermicelli give just the right texture - so pleased the PPN just seems to keep rolling along and inspiring me

  9. hehe I'm difficult with change too! I've never tried baking these rolls but it sounds like they'd have a really interesting texture! :)

  10. I forgot to mention that you are one of the lucky ones... you get a copy of Pasta - a great little cookbook with recipes from great Canadian East Coast Chefs! thanks for playing.

  11. I too am intimidated by preparing Asian food. You make it sound so refreshing and easy. Thanks for that Johanna. You may have just inspired me to give them a try:)

    As for the change of the seasons and the changes in your personal life, I agree, they are also rather intimidating. Perhaps, Sylvia's approach may be best of all, just go with the natural state of being.

    Thanks for sharing...

  12. These rolls shaped like a PPN really made me smile this evening!

    Two year olds are tricky... I'd like to tell you three year olds are easier, well they are and they aren't! The time flies past though.

  13. So much going on! I hope all the changes turn out for the best and that you come to love this new job as much as the old one. And those rolls do look fantastic--great idea to use hte rice paper wrappers!

  14. Thanks Lorraine - the rice paper wrappers baked surprisingly well - I am now after some spring rolls wrappers but if I remember rightly they baked quite well too - though not the same crispy texture when they are fried

    Thanks Ruth - that's very exciting to get one of your local books that I would never see around my neck of the woods

    Thanks Louise - yes I think Sylvia gets it right - so much easier not to dwell on the change and just go with the flow - honestly I would like to do that if people didn't keep giving me forms and asking questions! Seasonal changes and children's change is so much easier

    Thanks Sarah - glad to give you a smile - yes I think the change in children that is hardest is having to let go of each part of their childhood - best to try and stay in the moment as louise says!

    Thanks Ricki - just got to try and cherry pick the best bits I guess - there are definitely advantages and disadvantages to each employer!

  15. I have been on a spring roll kick lately and am very excited I stumbled upon this recipe. I will definitely be saving it to try it out.

  16. Congratulations on your new job! I hope you're enjoying it. :) The spring rolls look delicious. I really want to try making my own! And I love the snowpea salad you put together. Thinly slicing the snowpeas is a great idea!


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