Last November, Speedy’s family commemorated his late father’s birthday with a family dinner. It was a potluck affair and one of my sisters-in-law, Susan, ordered a couple of dishes from her caterer friend. One of those dishes was kani salad wrapped in rice paper. Delicious. Unusual. A fantastic conversation piece.
Right there and then, I decided to try making some at home. It shouldn’t be complicated. We’ve made kani salad countless times (the girls can do it on auto-pilot mode), I’ve made Vietnamese spring rolls before and handling the delicate rice paper was no problem.
So, the time for the great experiment happened yesterday at lunch time. It’s really quite easy. Perhaps, the most challenging part is handling the rice paper. The first time can be daunting but, as with anything else, practice erases the fear.
The first thing to do is to make kani salad. BUT. Okay, the big but. To prevent the spring rolls from turning soggy later, do two things. First, squeeze out as much water as you can from the cucumbers. So, shred them then squeeze them. Second, go easy on the Japanese mayonnaise; a drier kani salad is easier to wrap. You can always serve extra Japanese mayo on the side.
When you have your kani salad ready, the rest is a matter of assembly. In the Vietnamese spring rolls recipe, I dipped the rice paper in a shallow bowl (a pan, actually) of water to soften it. There’s a less messy way — a safer way, actually, so that there’s less chance that the rice paper will become too soft to handle. Wet a kitchen towel. Not a paper towel but a real kitchen towel. Place a rice paper on one side. Fold the other half over it and press down lightly to transfer some of the water in the towel to the rice paper. Check after a few presses if the rice paper is soft enough to wrap with.
Remember also that you cannot wet the rice paper in batches. You soften one, fill it up and roll it, then soften another and so on because the rice paper has to be filled as soon as it is soft. You cannot stack softened rice paper on top of each other as they will stick and they’ll tear if you try to separate them.
There are illustrations in the Vietnamese spring rolls recipe for wrapping. Use them as a guide. When you have your all your spring rolls ready, use a very sharp knife to cut them in halves. Serve on a bed of lettuce, cut side up, with extra Japanese mayonnaise on the side.