Spring rolls are awesome aren’t they? Whether crispy or simply soaked in water, they tingle your tastebuds, making you want more. Hell, I’m salivating as I write!
Now, you could order them in whenever you want, but they taste the best when made at home. Trust me on this. I’ve tried numerous restaurants and takeaways. Yet, when I make them at home, my family goes crazy, fighting for the last piece on the plate. And with your choice of serving sauce (personal favourite is sweet chilly), they are ready to be relished.
Looking back, it’s funny how I took to cooking really. Spending the first 24 years of my life at home, I grew up on my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes. Coming from a Bengali household, my family was surprisingly very un-Bong if I could use that term. Sure, we would have the regular slightly-sweetened dals or lentils, the gorgeously tender mutton curries, but rice was never a staple. In fact, from a young age my sister and I were encouraged to broaden our tastebuds. To try all sorts of cuisines available. While one day the dining table had traditional food, chicken au gratin and meatloaf would replace them the next night. Or if one was craving frankfurters from Cold Storage, just a simple soup and mash accompanied the slightly-browned sausages.
Now, sure I would try my hand at baking a few odd cakes here and there or make a prawn linguine once in a while. It was only when I left home that I realised the potential of having my own kitchen. Sure the Anthony Bourdains and Nigella Lawsons molded my thoughts but once I began cooking on a regular basis I realised how important it was not to get stuck in a routine. How to learn to experiment with different herbs, spices and even cuts of meat.
Like the spring rolls I mentioned earlier. I knew the concept of creating them, but until I actually made them I could never truly say home-made ones are the best.
Let me take this opportunity to say I’m terrible with measurements. Like really. I always go by as Bengalis call it ‘Andaaj’. That is when cooking, going by the feel. I’ve heard Italians cook the same way. Hell, unless you bake, cooking should have a variety. One day the salt might be less but the next day, you’ll get it just right.
The first ingredient for homemade spring rolls is rice paper (Let’s face it, unless you know the technique of making it with beaten eggs on an unnaturally high flame, rice paper serves the purpose just fine) Now the fun bit. The filling can be anything! You can try prawns, chicken, pork, beef, eggs. Whatever you fancy.
What I did two days ago was use prawns, eggs, carrots and onions.
I first put a tablespoon of shrimp paste into the wok which was on high heat. Let me warn you, it gives off a strong smell and it would be wiser to keep your kitchen windows shut to deter determined cats sniffing the air, but the depth of flavour it gives to what you cook in them is fabulous. Then tumble in the raw medium-sized prawns (de-veined of course. Who wants to eat poo?) Roughly, a tablespoon of paste to 250 grams of prawns. Sautee them till they are cooked and then keep them in a separate bowl.
Then in the same pan I added a dash of vegetable oil, threw in two spring onions and three cloves of garlic both finely chopped. Once they had become soft, I added one small carrot (peeled and finely chopped). Just for flavour, I added a hint of oyster sauce and voila, my filling was complete! Unless you like your food very salty, you don’t need to add salt while cooking the filling. Of course you must tumble the prawns back in for about half a minute at the end when you feel the vegetables have cooked, just so the delicious flavours get integrated.
Now the second bit. Take a bowl of water and in it, dip each rice paper individually till you feel them go soft. Then you take one out, dry it with a napkin, stuff in your filling and roll into a home-made spring roll! Advice, do not soak all the papers together because once they go soft, it will be difficult to take them apart. For the amount of stuffing I cooked, I can easily make 12-14 rolls.
I had earlier made an omelet which I simply cut into thin strips, adding one to each roll before rolling. (Tongue twister? Ok not really good with the jokes!)
I do apologise for the photograph because the rice paper I had used this time let me down rather badly. So much so that my young sister, who is brilliant at taking photographs, had to admit defeat at being unable to crop, edit whatever she does with her computer, to make food look beautiful.