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The Emperor's New Summer Rolls
Happy Solstice, have a delicious recipe
Happy Solstice, happy Juneteenth. I took the day off yesterday for the holiday and hope you got to do so too.
Since summer is in full swing and nothing says summer to my Californian soul like fresh vegetables and bright flavors, I thought it was a good time to share one of the recipes from Once Upon A Table, my fairy tale cookbook. This week, we’re exploring the iconic Hans Christian Andersen tale where the vain, hapless emperor is tricked into thinking his outfit is real when it is of course a figment of his imagination.
This recipe is one of my favorites I’ve developed for the book because it fixes my perpetual issue with summer rolls: not enough going on. I understand that adding vermicelli is both economical and traditional, but it has always struck me that summer rolls are absolutely screaming for extra vegetables and that while dipping sauce is great, the inside could be seasoned as well.
As such, this recipe is bursting with herbs and crunchy fresh things. Serve it at your next dinner party and I can assure the crowd will not point and jeer at you, unlike the unfortunate emperor.
The Emperor’s New Spring Rolls
In The Emperor’s New Clothes, the Emperor is tricked into buying “cloth” so beautiful that it can only see be seen by the worthy. The men charge him a ridiculous, one might even say kingly price, and then deliver the “garment”, promptly leaving again. Shortly after they leave, The Emperor makes a public appearance, and everyone laughs and laughs because of his state of undress.
The Emperor’s New Clothes is a perfect story to pair with Vietnamese Summer Rolls because of their clear, fabric-like wrappers. I've taken a few creative liberties with the ingredients, but a dash of the inauthentic feels appropriate for the Emperor, and they're certainly delicious.
Serves 8 as an appetizer and 4 as a main course.
Large raw, deveined shrimp, approx. 1 lbs
Fish sauce or soy sauce, 2 tbsp
Fresh ginger, 1 tbsp
Chili garlic paste, 1 1/2 tbsp
Lemongrass, 1 tbsp
Sugar, 2 1/2 tbsp
Sesame oil, 1 tsp
Water, 1/2 cup
Optional: salt to taste
Juice of one lime
½ jalapeño, seeded and chopped
Water, 1/2 cup
½ cup of peanut butter
2 tbsp peanut or sunflower oil
Large Rice Paper Spring Roll Wrappers*, 8
Romaine Lettuce, 8 large leaves or more if needed
Radishes, 3 large
Carrots, 2 medium
Persian cucumbers, 2 medium
Spring onions, 2 medium
Cilantro, 1/2 cup packed
Mint, 1/2 cup packed
Basil, 1/2 cup packed
The night before you’re going to make the Spring Rolls, grate the ginger and lemongrass into fine pastes, and combine them in a large baking dish with high sides. Then add the fish sauce, chili garlic paste, sugar, sesame oil, and salt (if using). Then, dilute the mixture with a 1/2 cup of water. Finally, add the shrimp to the marinade, cover the baking dish with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge overnight.
When your shrimp are marinated to your taste, heat up a well-oiled cast iron pan to medium high heat. Get your marinated shrimp and add them to it, making sure they do not stick, and cook them for three minutes on each side.
Once the shrimp are cooked, let them rest and cool down, as you will not want to use them until they have reached room temperature.
After your shrimp are cooked, make the dipping sauce by combining the leftover marinade, lime juice, water, and jalapeno in a small saucepan. Cook until the consistency becomes somewhat syrupy, and turn off your pan. Pour the marinade into a blender and blend until smooth. Once blended, return the mixture to the pan and slowly mix in the peanut butter.
While the shrimp are cooling, begin assembling your spring rolls. After chopping the cucumbers in half and then deseeding them with a spoon, cut the carrots, radishes, onions, and cucumbers into long, thin slices. Next, destem your herbs, picking them apart so that they are just intact leaves. Then, take the romaine and remove any large, hard centers from it by cutting a large triangle shape from each leaf’s center.
Once you have all your ingredients assembled, find a large bowl and fill it with warm water. Dip a spring roll wrapper into the water and wait for it to get soft and pliable. This will happen quickly. Then, move it to a clean cutting board, and lay it out as flat as possible. Begin assembling the rolls, starting with a leaf of romaine. Next, add all of the herbs, starting with the basil leaves and then working in with a layer of cilantro and then mint. Then add the rest of the vegetables in strips of equal length. Finally, put three shrimp on top of the veggies, fold the sides in, and roll the wrapper as tightly as possible. Repeat this process until you have used up all of your ingredients and have 8 beautiful rolls. It doesn’t matter if they do not look perfect.
Put your dipping sauce into a nice bowl and serve.