I still remember the first spring roll I ever ate. I was in high school and my friend bought a lunch container of spring rolls from the grocery store. I asked him what it was and he let me try one. At the time, I had eaten the fried version of the roll from cheap Chinese restaurants.So, I had no idea what to expect. My first thought was about the wrapper. I did not know that spring roll wrappers were opaque and soft. The roll was filled with vegetables, some I had never heard of, and cooked shrimp. It was paired with a simple ginger and soy sauce. The first bite I took tasted fresh, unlike the fried rolls. In a way, it was unreal how a roll with very few ingredients could taste so good.
Ten years later, I’m living in East Asia and making spring rolls. Surprisingly, the spring rolls that aren’t fried are difficult to find in Nanjing. So, I’ve learned how to make them at home.
At first, I thought making spring rolls was tedious. It does take time to prepare the ingredients before you put them in the spring roll wrapper, especially if you are using an ingredient that needs to be cooked beforehand. When I make them with noodles, I will wait fifteen minutes for the noodles to cool down before handling them. Now that I’ve had more practice, I find it relaxing.
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with fillings to see what works and what doesn’t. Here’s what I’ve discovered:
* Cucumbers and carrots are crunchy and keep well overnight in the fridge.
* Bell peppers are good for spring rolls that you plan on eating now, but they slip out of the spring roll when you try to eat one.
* Seasoned vermicelli noodles allow the spring rolls to become a meal, instead of an appetizer, and you don’t have to make a dipping sauce.
If you have some other ingredients that you enjoy adding to your spring rolls, feel free to tell me in the comment section below.
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Vegetarian Spring Rolls with Miso and Sesame Vermicelli
Peel the carrot and cucumber. Place them in two separate piles.
Cook the vermicelli per the directions on the package. While they are cooking, combine the miso, sesame oil and soy sauce in a bowl. Stir until the miso is no longer lumpy.
When the vermicelli is done cooking, place them in a heat resistant bowl and add the sauce. Mix the noodles until they are covered with the sauce.
Wrapping the Spring Rolls
Place lukewarm water in a shallow bowl or pan. This will be used to soak the wrappers.
Take one wrapper and place it in the water for twenty seconds. On the package, it may say ten seconds, but you really need twenty seconds.
When the wrapper is soft, place it flat on your counter top. Then, add your fillings near the bottom edge of your wrapper.
Next, fold the right side in, followed by the left. Finally, fold over the bottom edge and "tuck in" your ingredients. Continue rolling your spring roll. Once it is rolled, place it on a plate or leave it on your counter top.
Fried rice is one of the quickest Chinese dishes to make; it’s also one of the cheapest. When making fried rice all you need is rice and vegetables. You can make it with beef, chicken or top it with scrambled eggs. It’s very easy to make, especially for beginner cooks, and it gives me a chance to try some new Chinese ingredients.
Although I am not a vegetarian, I prefer to eat vegetarian Chinese dishes. I think that most of the sauces and spices used in Chinese cooking compliment vegetables and tofu well. Plus, Chinese vegetables are different from the ones we use in the U.S. The Woks of Life, a blog that focuses on traditional and non-traditional Chinese dishes has a whole glossary dedicated to Chinese vegetables. For this recipe, I decided to keep it simple with carrots and broccoli. However, in the past, I have used bok choy, scallions, bean sprouts, edamame and many other vegetables.
If you are going to try to make fried rice at home, I suggest that you have everything mise en place. This is a fancy French word meaning “putting in place”. Since you will have to work quickly when cooking the ingredients, it’s almost necessary to put all of your ingredients in separate bowls. If you don’t have everything in place, your food can burn and it will be disastrous, trust me.
Don’t be afraid to make fried rice at home. It’s simple to make and doesn’t require much time or money. Even in Nanjing, it’s cheaper for me to make friend rice at home than buying it at a restaurant. Lastly, it’s an easy way to start exploring the world of Chinese cooking.
At times, I wonder if I am the only person who loves to curl up with a bowl of yogurt with granola and peanut butter. I like to wake up, throw them in a bowl and read the news while sipping a cup of coffee. For me, it’s a healthy comfort food and makes me feel at home wherever I’m residing.
Since I moved to China, I haven’t been able to find granola in the supermarket. I’ve gotten used to walking through the cereal aisle, and picking up a bag of Bear Naked Honey Almond Granola. Then, I would walk to the dairy aisle and grab the thickest Greek yogurt. Now, I don’t have those luxuries anymore, but that is okay. I need to find a way to make a new way to make my comfort food.
Last week, I found walnuts and whole oats in the grocery store. I said to myself “This is my opportunity to make the best granola ever!!”. Without doing any research on if it was possible for me to make granola without an oven, I bought a small bag of walnuts and a large container of oats.
After my impulse buy of walnuts and oats, I searched to see if anyone had made granola without an oven. I came across no bake vegan recipes. All of them looked delicious, and I am still willing to try them, but I didn’t have any vegan-friendly ingredients. I decided that I should find steps in granola recipes that didn’t require an oven. Two techniques I found were the toasting of the outs, and the melting of peanut butter and honey. I thought toasting the walnuts and the oats would help create a crunchy texture. Melting the peanut butter and honey together just looked delicious.
Despite some doubts, and dealing with a crappy frying pan, it turned out well. The oats had a nice crunch and the sesame oil gave it a nuttier flavor. It wasn’t too sweet and would definitely pair well with yogurt.
No Bake Sesame Granola
A very nutty granola recipe that doesn't require an oven. It can be served with yogurt or ice cream.
Chop the walnuts into small pieces. You can also use pre chopped walnuts if you have them.
In a bowl, microwave the honey and peanut butter for one minute. Take the bowl out of the microwave, then thoroughly mix the honey and peanut butter together.
Next, to make the cooking a little easier, place the oats and walnuts in seperate bowls. Place those ingredients, along with the penut butter and honey mixture, beside your stovetop. Take a foot long sheet of aluminum foil, or parchment paper,and place it on a countertop. The granola will be placed on the aluminum foil after it's fully cooked.
Warm your pan on low heat and add the oats and walnuts. Make sure to sure them consistently while they are toasting.
After the oats and walnuts are toasted, add the sesame oil. Move the ingredients around the pan for about one minute.
Then, add the honey peanut butter mixture and the salt. Fully coat the oats and walnuts with these ingredients.
Transfer the granola to the piece of aluminum foil, or parchment paper, and spread it out. Allow the granola to cool for five minutes before serving.
Store the granola in an air-tight container. It will hold for one week.