Fresh Spring Rolls

Be sure to make tons of extra fresh spring rolls so you and your loved ones can bring some to work. This makes for a light, filling lunch! You can substitute prawn with lemongrass pork roast or chicken pandan.

In my early years in the workforce, no one left the office earlier than 9. Right after I clock out, I would jump in my car and prowl the city for late night eats. Back in those days, I mostly nourished myself with Chinese or Japanese food since a lot of Chinese and Japanese restaurants were open until midnight. For some reason, I used to feel that food tasted better late at night--be it a simple bowl of chow fan strewn with dumplings or a colorful tray of sushi.

Office workers nowadays are extremely lucky to have a dizzying array of late night dining options--from Korean to Thai to Vietnamese. It is a truly magnificent thing that you can now taste the flavors of the world just by driving a few blocks away from your house.

Although I work full-time, I make it a point to come home as early as possible to spend more time with my kids. And since it's not ideal to cart one's tots to hole-in-the-wall establishments on a weeknight (no matter how insanely "authentic" it is), I allow my kids to experience different cuisines right at the comfort of our home.

I'm quite happy my kids are adventurous eaters. There are a few things they refuse to eat, but I reintroduce it after 6 months just to test if they have changed their minds. Sometimes, it's not about dish itself, but the ingredients. Or vice versa.

Among my kids' favorite meals include Vietnamese Spring Rolls (sans Sriracha), Tom Yum Goong (heat toned down of course), Chow Mein (a great way to incorporate vegetables in their diet), and Beef Boolgogi (their absolute favorite). As for me, my ultimate late-night craving has always been, is, and will always be Spicy Tuna Sashimi. It's deceptively easy to make and requires no special skill at all.

This August, we will be exploring different Asian dishes. My friends are astounded how I am able to gather several "exotic" ingredients for my crazy kitchen experiments. I tell them these unusual sauces, herbs, spices, and whatnot are all available at Rustan's Supermarket.

So bring out your chopsticks and ricebowls! You are in for a serious treat.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Ingredients:

Pickles:

1 large carrot, julienned
1 medium cucumber, julienned
1 cup water
½ cup lime juice and lime peel (you can also use lemon or calamansi)
½ cup vinegar
4 tbsp sugar

Sauce:

1 cup peanut butter
½ cup water
2 tbsp hoisin
1 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
1 tbsp muscovado sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
½ clove garlic, minced
10 lime wedges (to taste)
Sriracha (optional)
Crushed roasted peanuts (topping)

Blanched shrimp:

30 pieces of shrimp, peeled, deveined, and sliced lengthwise
Ice and water in a large baking pan

Blanched bean sprouts:

2 cups bean sprouts
Ice and water in a large baking pan

Rice paper:

10 rice paper
2 cups warm water in a large baking pan
Clean kitchen towel

Fresh ingredients:

1 head of butter lettuce
10 pieces spring onion
30 pieces of mint leaves
30 pieces of basil leaves
30 pieces of cilantro leaves

Procedure:

1.    Prepare pickled vegetables one day ahead or a few hours ahead. Place water, vinegar, citrus, and sugar in a mason jar. Shake vigorously until sugar dissolves. Put julienned carrots and zucchini. Seal tightly and refrigerate.
2.    Using a blender, blitz hoisin, Kikkoman soy sauce, muscovado sugar, sesame oil, and garlic. Add the peanut butter gradually. Add water in a long, thin stream until the sauce is emulsified. Adjust the taste. Serve sauce with lime wedges, Sriracha, and crushed peanuts.
3.    Boil water in a medium-sized pot. Reduce to simmer. Using a spider strainer, quickly blanch the shrimp in simmering water for 20-30 seconds until just translucent. Dunk shrimp immediately in ice water bath and drain. Using the same pot, blanch bean sprouts for 15-20 seconds until al dente. Dunk in ice water bath and drain.
4.    Dip rice paper in warm water. Lay a piece of rice paper over clean kitchen towel and top with butter lettuce, 3 pieces basil leaves, bean sprouts, 3 pieces mint leaves, 3 pieces of shrimp, 3 pieces of cilantro, pickled carrots and cucumbers, and 1 piece of spring onion.
5.    Serve!

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