It's arrived! It's arrived! Melbourne, your cool change has hit and we're all on speaking terms with Mother Nature again. I can use my kitchen, ride my bike, walk at lunchtime. I can go to bed not dreading another night tossing and turning. It's cooled down (chilly even) and we're all walking around with foolish grins on our faces.
When it's as crazy hot as it has been and for as long as it has been, no one feels like lighting an oven. We fired up the barbie and grilled some chicken and steaks (though I realise in hindsight I shouldn't have even done that, being a total fire ban and all). Rice paper rolls are my hot night go to dish of summer - they're refreshing and cooling but you still get to knock up a nice meal (and I don't mean get it pregnant).
The sad and sorry thing about this recipe is that, while it is so simple to pull together, I managed to stuff if up more than once. The heat had more than fried my brain. Perhaps I should have dipped the ol' grey matter in a quick crumb and had that for dinner instead. Fava beans as a side? But seriously, I left the rice noodles in hot water for way too long and they ended up a little too soft. The rice paper also does not respond well to boiling water and should really only be prepared one at a time. Our dinner table rule is if you take one rice paper from the water, you pop another one in. Pretty effective, really.
I have a bad habit of leaving half eaten packets of noodles in the pantry for months on end. They end up being thrown out after either weevils attack or they settle outside their packet on various shelves of the pantry. This time I prepared them all and used leftover chicken, salad and dressing to make a noodle salad for lunch throughout the week. It was an amazing healthy alternative to my usual takeaway and inexpensive as well. Look at me, all thrifty-like.
The best thing about rice paper rolls (and if I haven't convinced you yet, you're a tough crowd) is how much fun they are to eat. We prepare a platter of ingredients and let our guests assemble their own, choosing whichever herbs, meats or salads they enjoy and digging in. It's very tactile and tasty all at the same time. And great for the 8th day in a row over 32 degrees where you can't be bothered to lift a finger cooking, much less assemble 15 rolls on your own.
I'm not including quantities for the rolls themselves - just prepare enough for as many people as you're hosting. About 3-4 per person is enough for a moderate meal
Rice thread noodles
Cucumber, seeds removed
Long red chilli
50ml fish sauce
50ml rice vinegar
50ml lime juice
To prepare the rice paper rolls, preheat your barbecue and grill the chicken breasts for 6-7 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook your steak until medium rare, around 3-5 minutes on each side depending on the thickness.
Pour hot water oven the rice noodles and leave to soak until just soft. Drain and allow to cool.
Slice the carrot, cucumber, chilli, spring onion and lettuce into 5-7cm lengths. Wash your herbs and dry with paper towel.
Assemble all ingredients on a platter. Bring a wide shallow bowl with cool water to your table and place rice paper in for around 1 minute or until softened. Drain quickly and assemble with whichever ingredients you prefer. To roll, fold the edge closest to you over the fillings, followed by the right hand side, the left side and then roll up the open end.
To make the dipping sauce, heat the sugar, fish sauce and vinegar over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool slightly and add the water and the lime juice.
To serve, dip your rice paper rolls in the sauce and enjoy in a cool spot. I thoroughly recommend a cold beer as well. But I'd recommend that in the dead of winter.