Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vietnamese Tree Rolls

I have officially found a new favorite thing to make that don't involve me turning on my oven or stove top.  Even better - this dish is really nice to make with a group of people... I get to be sociable and do less work!  Katherine 1 - Effort 0.  And to think, I have fallen in love with a variation of this dish since my first week in Seattle but I never knew how easy it was to replicate at home!

One of the first restaurants I went to after moving to Seattle is this wonderful Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown called Tamarind Tree.  Oddly enough, it's surrounded by some not so wonderful looking buildings.  But really, would you expect anything else?  I've found that Seattle is a city of hidden gems and being that Chinatown's typically are hidden gems, this find's a real kicker.  It's tucked way back in a corner next to a nail salon and not too far away from a dumpster - not something I would find if I was just wandering around for a place to eat.  Nevertheless, once you step inside... oh baby.  The jewel toned walls add warmth to the entire space, the tables are close enough that casually awkward conversation can happen between diners and the bamboo dividers allow you to forget (and to a certain extent remember) that you are tucked away in a corner of Chinatown.

But the ambiance of the dining area is not the only thing that keeps me coming back, it's the Tamarind Tree Rolls, i.e. the healthiest sinful thing that I have ever eaten.  There's the crunch of some sort of rice stick and carrots, the smooth texture of the rice paper and the heat of the dipping sauce as it hits the back of your tongue.  And even though I despise Rachel Ray, I'd be with her saying "Yum-O!" when it comes to eating the Tree Rolls.  Sadly, I thought I would never be able to replicate these delights at home (foreshadowing!!)

Let's jump in the time machine shall we and cut to Mid-September.  I was invited to attend a TweetUp at the office in downtown Seattle.  The conversation and food would focus of foods that are both healthy, easy to prepare and can be frozen (or refrigerated for long periods of time).  Smoothies, soups and dips were made, but I think what excited me to most were the Vietnamese Salad rolls we made.  I could not stop eating them.  I swear I'm not exaggerating when I say that I ate my entire body weight of them, all one hundred and... oh wait, I'm not going to tell you how much I weigh.  Like our age, a lady never revels anything truthful about herself.  Ahem, moral of that story is that I learned how to make Tree Rolls!  And made them I have - twice!  However, I changed a fair number of things from the recipe and almost all fresh ingredients instead of pre-packaged ones.  I even successfully taught a boy how to make these - they are that easy to make!

Vietnamese Tree Rolls

  • Package of rice wrappers
  • Approx 5 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 small to medium head of cabbage, cut into very thin strips
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • Warm water
  • Dipping Sauce (I used a combination of chili sauce with my homemade hot sauce)
  1. Fill a large bowl with warm water.  Dip one rice paper in water for approximately 10 seconds to soften.
  2. Lay wrapper flat on work surface (I recommend a plastic cutting board) and arrange a layer of basil leaves and desired amount of carrots and cabbage.  Roll the wrapper like you would a burrito (if you are not an experienced burrito roller - fold one edge over some of the ingredients, then roll up at the bottom, then fold over the other edge and continue rolling up tightly).  Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  3. Serve the rolls with dipping sauce.


Carrie said...

I still haven't been to the Tamarind Tree! I keep meaning to go, I even work within a sort of close distance (sorta, I'm in the vicinity). Totally agree about the hidden gems in Seattle, there's some good 'uns.

rick said...

I make these all the time. I came up with a good dipping sauce. Equal amounts Sweet Hot Chili sauce and chunky peanut butter, say 1/3 cup or so each, juice of two limes, one or two tablespoons fish sauce (depending on how much you like fish sauce), and enough pineapple juice to thin the mixture. Stir well. Enjoy.


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