Ten years ago, if you had asked me what my favorite sauce is in the whole world, I’d probably have said, “Sweet and sour sauce.” If you had asked me the same question five years ago, I would have said, “Pesto.” These days, it’s the sweet and tangy Vietnamese nuoc cham. It’s basically a sweet and sour sauce but it isn’t cooked to thicken. Garlic and chilis are pounded to a paste then mixed with fish sauce (patis to Filipinos), lime juice, vinegar and sugar. I used all those basic nuoc cham ingredients, threw in some finely chopped ginger for added heat and aroma, and used them to season the filling for these spring rolls.
I love spring rolls for many reasons. They remind me of my childhood, they are so darn cute, they are uncomplicated to eat and they’re like a present — beautifully wrapped and, inside, a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors and textures. Unlike a gift, however, the spring roll wrapper is just as important as the filling. For fresh (as opposed to fried) spring rolls, I can’t quite decide these days which I like better — the crepe-like egg-y wrapper or the Vietnamese rice paper. Not that I have to choose one over the other, really, but since I’m so into everything Vietnamese these days, I chose rice paper for this recipe.
Sweet and tangy pork, water spinach (kangkong) and pineapple spring rolls
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 200 grams ground pork
- 1 heaping tablespoon finely minced garlic
- 1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped ginger
- 2 finger chilis thinly sliced
- juice of one lime or lemon
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 to 3 slices fresh pineapple cut into half-inch cubes to measure one cup
- 1 bunch kangkong (water spinach) cut into half-inch pieces, thick stalks and leaves separated
- 8 to 10 sheets rice paper
- 1 small handful cilantro
- Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan.
- Over high heat, add the pork, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, until the pork is no longer pink.
- Add the chilis and cook, stirring, for a minute. Pour in the fish sauce and lime or lemon juice. Sprinkle in the sugar. Stir. Allow to cook with occasional stirring until almost dry.
- Add the pineapple cubes. Stir.
- Add the thick stalks of the kangkong. Stir. Cook for a minute.
- Add the thinner stalks and leaves of the kangkong. Stir. Cook for another minute. Taste. Adjust the seasonings, if needed.
- Transfer to a shallow bowl. It is a complete dish at this point. You can serve it with rice and it’s very, very good.
- But I wanted spring rolls. So, I waited a little bit until the mixture has cooled so as not to create steam inside the rice paper which would make it soggy.
- After the mixture has cooled almost to room temperature, you can use it as a spring roll filling, as I did.
- Dip a rice paper in water until softened (see illustration) then lay flat on your work surface. Place a heaping tablespoonful or two (depending on the size of your rice paper) at the middle, top with some torn cilantro and wrap.
- Repeat until all the rice paper had been filled. or until you run of out filling, whichever comes first.
- These spring rolls are already perfectly seasoned and they don’t require a dipping sauce.