I read (recently, somewhere on the Interwebs) about the importance of the “crunch” in our food. Crunchy food not only helps relieve stress by forcing us to give our jawbones a decent workout but, at a certain level of crunch, helps light up the “good mood” part of our brains.
Who would have thought? Apparently, potato chip (the bag of crisps variety, not the fries-with-that? kind) manufacturers put a lot of effort into achieving the optimum crunchiness level to get us munching our way down to the very bottom of the bag. I’d imagined the crinkle cut and “deli cut” styles were all about trapping the flavours on the surface. Seems they are more about creating the perfect crunch in your mouth.
The article (which has disappeared back into the murky vortex of cyberville) continued on with how the the dream pairing of crunchiness with squishiness gets those “good mood” brain parts really partying. Think: soft-centred chocolate where you crunch through the smooth crispness of the outer layer then sink into the cushiony, yielding flavour bomb inside. My brain is making whoopee just thinking about it.
Where am I going with all this? Surprisingly, I’m heading for rice paper rolls and my revelation that what I love about them (apart from the distinctive Asian flavours) is the squishy, crunchy experience. First the dipping sauce hits your tongue, then your teeth slice through the soft rice paper layers, crunch through the raw, crispy vegetables and sink into the soft, tasty noodles. Boom! Party in your mouth and celebration in your brain.
All this revelation inspired me to push my culinary skills into new territory and prepare (it’s not really baking, is it?) rice paper rolls from scratch.
I found this recipe on http://www.taste.com.au and it suited the situation perfectly. My (vegetarian) Girl was to be present at our family gathering and Mr (carnivore) P (who doesn’t like coriander) was not arriving until later. So, tofu, coriander and bottled sweet chilli dipping sauce won the day.
The rice paper wrappers were easier than I expected to work with. I’m just surprised that no one had whispered to me that once you wet them, they take on the consistency of, well … condoms. Not a great image to have in your head when you’re rolling up little parcels of whoopee, but there you go. At least now, I’ve told you.
These went down a treat at our family gathering, so fast that I only managed to capture the last couple on the plate.
Squishy, Crunchy Vegie Rice Paper Rolls
1 pkt instant noodles
1/4 bunch coriander, leaves picked
50g (1/3 cup) crushed peanuts
1 tablespoon soy sauce
10 rice paper sheets
100g firm tofu, thinly sliced
2 Lebanese cucumbers, washed, cut into 8cm matchsticks
1 carrot, peeled, cut into 8cm matchsticks
sweet chilli sauce, to serve
Boil the noodles as per packet instructions (discarding the veg and flavour sachets). Drain, cool slightly. Combine noodles, coriander, peanuts and soy sauce in a small bowl.
Fill a large, shallow bowl with warm water. Soak one rice paper sheet in the water for 20 seconds or until just soft (condom consistency!). Don’t soak too long or it will tear. Drain on paper towel. Transfer to chopping board. Place some of the noodles mixture in the centre. Top with some of the tofu, cucumber and carrot. Fold in the ends and roll up to enclose.
Repeat to make 10 rolls. Serve with sweet chilli sauce for dipping.