I went grocery shopping today. What that usually means is that on top of the five items on my shopping list, I got another half a dozen or so items I don't need and probably have never tried before -- pure indulgences, I'd say . Top of the list of indulgences today was a bottle of Thai basil relish. Yumm. I had no execution plan on how I would use it but when I saw it on the shelf, I had to have it.
I got home and couldn't get the relish out of my mine. I decided I'd cross national borders and make some Vietnamese rolls (often dubbed summer rolls by the mat sallehs) using the Thai relish both as an ingredient and as a dipping sauce as well. I usually use a sweet chilli sauce to dip the rolls or a fishless fish sauce. But I was looking for something different and the basil relish was it.
Vietnamese rolls are truly a cinch to make. It's basically a fresh salad roll which means everything is fresh and, only if necessary, lightly cooked. The original filling usually is usually lightly cooked shrimp, sliced carrots, bean sprouts, rice vermicelli, lettuce and cilantro. Without the shrimp, the rolls are still tasty but I added some thinly sliced smoked tofu and crushed peanuts, lightly peppered.
There is very little seasoning in the rolls. Just a little bit of pepper and maybe a very little lime. It's the dip/sauce that provides the added taste. The basil relish was sweetish with an obvious garlic twinge. And a very slight bite of chilli. It was lovely.
The first thing you have to do is soften the rice paper. You do this bu gently soaking it in warm to hot water for just about 10 seconds. Too long and they'll be too soft and break. Too short and they'll be too gummy and unsavoury.
Line the softened paper with a leaf of lettuce and then systematically layer on the other ingredients, leaving the nuts to go right on top.
Roll from the side closest you up, tightly, folding the edges in. Let them rest, seam side doen on a plate.
You can either serve the relish seperately or spread a little on top of the roll. You have to eat the rolls whens they're relatively warm or else they get a little chewy. In case they do get cold, you can steam them for just a few minutes.