Pomelo Salad Rolls
gỏi cuốn bưởi
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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.
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Salad rolls get a simple but spectacular twist by swapping out rice noodles for pomelo. It sounds odd, but it's amazing - and best of all, incredibly healthy.
- 20 rice paper sheets
- 1 large pomelo peeled, membranes removed, fruit separated into small pieces
- 2 medium carrots very thinly sliced or cut into small batons
- 2 Japanese or Lebanese cucumbers julienned
- 4 scallion greens cut into thin strips
- 1 small bunch mint leaves removed from the stalks and left whole
- 1 small bunch basil leaves removed from the stalks and left whole (see note)
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 small shallot minced
- 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp peanut butter natural (peanut-only) variety - see note
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1-2 tbsp chili sauce (optional)
- crushed peanuts to serve
Soak two rice paper sheets in very warm water until they're fairly soft. Remove them from the water, let the excess water drip off, and lay them down on top of each other on a plate or other flat surface.
Lay some mint and basil down in a line in the center of the rice paper sheets. Spoon some pomelo over this, then top with carrots, cucumber, and scallion greens.
Fold the salad roll up like a burrito (i.e. fold up the two ends near the line of filling, then fold up one long side, then the other). The stickiness of the rice sheets should hold everything together well.
Set the finished roll aside and repeat the process with all the remaining ingredients. Once you've finished all of the rolls, set them aside for 5-10 minutes to ensure that they're well-sealed.
Heat the oils in a small frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and shallots and fry for about 1 minute.
Remove the pan from the heat source and add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and peanut butter, and stir together. Pour the mixture into a small bowl and add the water and lime juice. You can mix the chili sauce in if you like, or serve it alongside this sauce.
Serve the rolls with the hoisin-peanut sauce, chili sauce, and crushed peanuts.
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.
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.
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.