Apologies for the long delay in blog posts. I have no excuses, really. I’ll make up for it by trying to post a lot this week. This afternoon I’m planning on chatting with a postdoc friend about some math for a blog post! In the meantime, here’s a cooking post.
I get a lot of compliments on the sauce that accompanies these light, fresh spring rolls. Peanut, hoisin, onion, garlic are the main players. Usually I make a bunch of goi cuon as an appetizer for a party, though the other night we ate a bunch of these for dinner and they make a great light dinner.
It’s also nice because you can throw out all the ingredients on the table and people make their own rolls with whatever they want.
First, you’ll want to boil a piece of pork. I had a hunk of pork leg leftover in my freezer that I used for this. Something without too much fat, but with a little bit of fat (so like a tenderloin but with more fat). If you want to boil the first (so boil just the outside of the pork, then toss out the water and boil it to cooked with new water), you can do that to minimize the smell, or just throw half an onion in the water.
It takes surprisingly long to cook a hunk of pork. This took about 25 minutes at a low steady boil (not a simmer). But that’s fine, because I did everything else during that time- prep veggies, make sauce, make noodles and shrimp.
Consider putting a pot of water on to boil after putting the pork in, so you’re ready for the noodles/shrimp. Anyways, minced onion goes in a pan with a bit of oil as long as you can stand in (the more caramelized, the better!), then add minced garlic until fragrant. Toss in a can of diced tomatoes (I used fresh because I had them), peanut butter, hoisin sauce, and enough water so it can actually simmer down and the tomatoes cook away.
You’re left with a delicious, sweet and salty and umami-sauce for dipping. I’ve used an immersion blender on this sauce to great effect in the past, but since it was just for us two I let us eat it chunkily. My mom also likes squeezing a lime into it, for some acid to cut the richness of the peanut butter.
While that’s simmering away, hopefully your secondary pot of water has got to boiling, and you can toss in some noodles (bun tao or whatever kind of rice noodles you want) and cook per package directions. Shrimp boils for just 2 minutes or so, depending on the size (until it’s opaque). Rice noodles are very thin and slippery, so I’d recommend getting a metal strainer instead of just a plastic colander.
You’re almost there! Time to thinly slice the pork…
And peel the shrimp. My mom likes cutting them in half, which is a lot of work but also looks nice.
To serve, place your proteins, noodles, and veggies on a table along with rice paper and a bowl of WARM water (or one of these cool things). Also small dishes for the dipping sauce and a plate for rolling for each person. For veggies: lettuce is a must, also something crunchy like pickled shredded carrots (shred carrots, add some rice vinegar and sugar and salt and water and leave in a bowl for at least an hour), or sliced apples, or sliced cucumber or bean sprouts. Spearmint, shiso leaf, and cilantro are all good. If you’re at a Vietnamese grocery store, just get everything that’s labelled “rau sống” and try everything to see what you like.
To eat: wet the rice paper. Some recipes say to leave it in the water for 5-10 seconds, which is way too long in my opinion unless the water isn’t warm. Just dip it so that every part of the rice paper is wet; it will soften on your place as you assemble the roll.
About 1 inch from a side, make a line of herbs and lettuce. Put on about a tablespoon of noodles, a few pieces of pork, and whatever else you want. About one inch above the rectangle, place the peeled shrimp in a line.
Fold the bottom side (the close one) over your rectangle, then fold in the sides and roll it up like a burrito.
My husband likes putting the sauce directly inside the roll, which makes sense if you’re going to eat it immediately and aren’t making these ahead of time. I like dipping them. Either way is fine.
My mom’s goi cuon: this recipe makes about 10 rolls, so dinner for 3 or appetizers for 10.
1 lb Pork leg/shoulder/some cut with a little fat on it
1 apple and/or carrot and/or cucumber and/or bean sprout, sliced/shredded
1 can tomatoes
3 TB peanut butter
3 TB hoisin sauce
1/2 lb shrimp
herbs: half a head of lettuce, cilantro, shiso leaf, coriander leaf, spearmint, peppermint…
- Boil the pork with half the onion and a spoonful of salt and a spoonful of sugar for about half an hour or until cooked.
- Make the sauce: dice the onion and saute in some oil until translucent, then add minced garlic until fragrant. Add tomatoes, hoisin, peanut butter, and enough water to thin, let simmer until tomatoes are cooked down.
- Cook the rice noodles according to package directions (boil for 4 minutes, rinse with cool water). Boil shrimp for 1-2 minutes until just opaque.
- Serve noodles, pork, and shrimp with vegetables and rice paper and a bowl of warm water.