Pomelo Salad Rolls
gỏi cuốn bưởi
I ended up with a little more citrus than I could manage this month. I wanted to get a few more posts up for last month’s citrus feature, but things got a little crazy around here. Fortunately, several of the recipes I wanted to get up fit perfectly into this month’s Asian vegetarian theme, and this one in particular showcases how easy it can be to think outside of the box with pomelo.
Salad rolls or Vietnamese spring rolls (gỏi cuốn in Vietnamese) are nearly universal in their appeal. They’re fresh, simple, and healthy, and they (or the ingredients needed to make them) are increasingly easy to find. That being said, it seems like a lot of the pre-made ones I find are simple bland rolls of noodles intended only to act as a delivery method for the sweet/salty sauce that’s served alongside. So how do you take a salad roll and make it something special? Make the roll itself interesting, and the dip phenomenal. To that end, I’ve filled these spectacular salad rolls with sweet-sour pomelo fruit in place of the usual rice noodles, and tweaked the sauce to give it added depth and flavour. Citrus fruit might sound like a strange filling, but pomelo is no ordinary citrus. The individual vesicles in the fruit segments separate easily, and the fruit is much less juicy than an orange or grapefruit. This gives them a texture and size not unlike bean sprouts (which are another popular salad roll filling). They do contribute flavour obviously, but their subtle sweetness doesn’t overwhelm. Throw in strong aromatic herbs (basil and mint) and the tasty crunch of carrots and cucumbers and you’ve got a roll that actually tastes good on its own, even without the dip. As an added bonus, replacing the typical rice noodles with pomelo makes these ultra-healthy.
But man, the dip… the dip is really good. Straight mixes of hoisin and peanut butter seem to be the norm, and they’re alright, but they tend to be a little one-dimensional. This dip (which needn’t be limited to this recipe) brings in a suite of other Southeast Asian ingredients, and the end result is a lot more complex and flavourful. The garlic and shallots actually stand out a little, and the lime juice cuts through the salt and sweet. Hot sauce (e.g. sriracha) is optional, but strongly recommended.
These are pretty shockingly easy to make. That being said, don’t be surprised if your first couple of rolls turn out a little sloppier than subsequent ones. Practice makes perfect. I do recommend that you double-wrap your rolls (i.e. use two rice paper sheets for one roll). I find that one sheet alone always seems to tear.
You can vary the vegetable ingredients any way you wish – feel free to substitute or add other herbs (cilantro and culantro would both be good). For the basil, you can use either a Thai style or sweet basil. Thai basil will have a stronger, somewhat anise-like flavour, but both varieties work very well.
Ideally, you want to use a peanut-only (i.e. no sugar or emulsifiers) peanut butter. If you can’t get that, you’ll might want to use a little more soy sauce and a little less hoisin sauce to balance out the sweetness a little bit. If you don’t have the ingredients for the sauce or you don’t have time to make it, you can substitute plain hoisin sauce, or a simple mixture of hoisin and natural peanut butter. The end result should be pretty good, but I do encourage you to add the garlic and shallots – they bring a lot of flavour to the dish. If you wanted to go a different direciton, you could use a good quality nuoc cham (nước chấm) for your dip. Nuoc cham does contain fish sauce however, so keep that in mind if you want to keep this dish vegan.
You may end up with more pomelo than you need from a single fruit. The rest can be refrigerated, or you can expand the recipe and make a few more rolls. Trust me, you’ll want more. If you’re unfamiliar with pomelo, or you’re looking for advice on how to find and choose it, check out the pomelo ingredient page here.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
Other Appetizers and Small Plates
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