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A CSA Twist on Vietnamese Fresh Summer Rolls

June 18, 2009
tags: ,

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When I was in my 20’s and living in the Boston area, one restaurant that my friends and I used to go to quite often was Pho Pasteur (which is now called Le’s Vietnamese Cuisine, I think, though I’m not sure why the name changed – I think it’s the same owners.) It was my first introduction to the light, fresh flavors of Vietnamese food, and I loved it. We always ordered the fresh summer rolls (goi cuon, literally “salad rolls”) to start, which were little rolls of pork or tofu, crispy fresh vegetables, bean sprouts, and lettuce wrapped in translucent rice paper (soft and fresh, not greasy and fried like some Chinese egg rolls), and served with the most delicious peanut sauce I’ve ever tasted. My friends and I used to joke that we could drink that peanut sauce all on it’s own. Actually, I think we were probably only half-joking.

Fresh summer rolls are without a doubt one of my favorite foods, and when warmer weather finally makes its appearance around here, I crave them. They’re fresh, light, so flavorful and so satisfying – a great warm-weather appetizer or even a light meal on their own (if you like them as much as I do.)

It’s been a bit cooler and rainer the past few days here, but last week, it was gloriously sunny, pleasantly warm (not hot) and I was in a summer roll mood. How lucky, then, that my craving coincided with our first CSA pick-up, which gave me so many great things to work with! I had beautiful lettuce, local pastured pork from The Piggery and Kingbird Farm, radishes and salad turnips, herbs like mint, Thai basil, and coriander growing in pots outside my front door, and some greenhouse cukes I’d picked up at the farmer’s market. In other words, a “perfect storm” for summer rolls.

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The twist I put on these was to wrap them in the collard leaves that we received in our share, which I steamed just until they were tender and bright green. I saw this trick awhile back on The Victory Garden — B and I watch this PBS show every weekend while we eat lunch — where the chef used the large, flat, round collard leaves as wraps for a chicken, bulgur, and summer vegetable mixture (which looked delicious!) The collards are just about the size of tortillas, so they’re easy to manipulate around your filling, and I think they  make a really nice twist on a traditional grain-based wrap.

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I found a killer summer roll recipe online, courtesy of Todd and Diane from White on Rice Couple, and let me tell you: they’re fantastic. The peanut sauce alone is worth making, but the marinade for the pork is equally delicious.

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I made two versions of rolls: one with grilled pork tenderloin, cucumbers, thinly sliced radishes and salad turnips, lettuce, and fresh herbs. I also made a different pork filling, made with ground pork, tamarind paste, garlic, ginger, and peanuts that I found in Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet (a beautiful cookbook, if you haven’t seen it — it’s part travelogue and part cookbook, filled with recipes from Southeast Asia, and reminds me of a coffee table book in its size and wealth of gorgeous pictures.  I’ve been cooking from this a lot, lately, and it’s nice to rediscover it.)

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Both were delicious — fresh, ultra-flavorful, and a nice twist on my traditional method of cooking greens (sauteed in garlic and olive oil.) And they satisfied that summer roll craving…at least for now.

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Amy’s CSA Version of Vietnamese Fresh Summer Rolls

view printable recipe

For both of these rolls, you’ll want to begin by steaming the leaves of collard greens in a large steamer basket or steamer insert. I trim off the stem, up to the point where the leaf starts, and steam them for about 5 minutes or until they’re bright green and tender (but not mushy.) The steamed greens can be set aside to cool and then refrigerated, covered, until you’re ready to assemble your wraps.

Any of the following are great to include in  your rolls:
radishes, thinly sliced
salad turnips, thinly sliced
cucumbers, sliced into matchstick strips
bean sprouts
fresh herbs, such as mint, basil, coriander/cilantro
scallions

Grilled Pork Filling

From White on Rice Couple via Rasa Malaysia

1 lb pork chops, loin, butt or shoulder, sliced thin.
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil

Place slices of pork in a shallow dish or ziptop bag. Whisk together all of the remaining ingredients, then add to the container with the pork. Mix so pork gets coated, then let marinate for at least 20 minutes. Grill for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until it’s cooked to the texture you desire.

Spicy Ground Pork Filling

From Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet

1/2 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water (I can find this in the Indian section of our grocery store)
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 cup shallots, chopped
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 or 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons toasted unsalted (raw) peanuts, chopped

Whisk the tamarind concentrate into the warm water until dissolved; set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat, then add the oil. When hot, add the shallots and garlic and stir-fry until golden. Add the ground pork and cook until it’s all changed color. Add the sugar, tamarind juice, fish sauce, and salt and continue cooking until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and chopped toasted peanuts and stir-fry one minute more. Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.

Hoisin-Peanut Sauce

From White on Rice Couple via Rasa Malaysia

1 cup (8 oz) hoisin sauce (if sauce is thick, add about 1/4 cup warm water to reach desired consistency)
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 minced thai chili, or more for desired spiciness

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and blend until smooth. If the consistency is too thick, thin out to your desired consistency with a little warm water.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2009 9:20 pm

    VERY very impressive. I adore vietnamese food. When I was real little and before we move into the suburbs, we lived in an vietnamese area of Houston and I was quickly the 3 year old blonde white girl that could use chop sticks. There is something magical about really good, fresh spring rolls.

    So inventive to use the greens in lieu of the rice paper. I haven’t tried much asian cooking other than the occasional curry or stir fry but maybe I will have to get more adventurous.

  2. June 18, 2009 9:38 pm

    mmm… I LOVE anything peanutty! I especially love thai peanut sauce!

  3. June 19, 2009 6:42 am

    I love this idea. I do a fair amount of lettuce wraps since I am grain free, but have yet to try collards. When/if we receive some in our csa I’ll be sure to try.

  4. June 19, 2009 7:10 am

    Wow ! that version of Vietnamese fresh summer rolls is great!
    It’s a very tempting recipe.
    Thank you for link to printable recipe :)

  5. June 19, 2009 7:12 am

    These look just fabulous! Such a great local and fresh twist on a common dish. I absolutely would have polished that whole plate off in no time at all.

  6. June 19, 2009 10:20 am

    What an awesome, innovative way to use some of the dark greens that tend to fill those summer CSA boxes. Thanks.

  7. June 19, 2009 11:10 am

    I LOVE the collard green idea!

  8. June 19, 2009 11:16 am

    I love these kinds of rolls with the sweet-savory sauce. Thanks for pointing us to Todd and Diane’s recipe– that’s two great recommendations! You did really well with them, and with such a vibrant green hue too! Beautiful!

  9. June 19, 2009 1:29 pm

    Oh my, those look amazing. Good to find a use for collards that is a bit lighter. Another check in the + column for something I was thinking of growing next season!

  10. lizsteinberg permalink
    June 19, 2009 5:59 pm

    Using fresh greens to make wraps is a really nice idea. Thanks!

  11. June 19, 2009 6:00 pm

    Using fresh greens as wrappers is a really nice idea. Thanks!

  12. Allison permalink
    June 19, 2009 10:25 pm

    Pho Pasteur was one of my favorite restaurants when I lived in Boston too! And, alas, there are no Vietnamese restaurants (especially as good as the Pho) where we live now. Thanks for an inspiring trip down memory lane!

  13. June 20, 2009 4:05 am

    i love the idea of using greens as wraps – a bit healthier and I love them! Also anything with peanuts in is a winner to me so I’m gonna have a go at making this :) Thx for sharing!

  14. June 20, 2009 6:42 am

    This is a great idea! I love stuffing cabbage, but have never tried it with greens (and have definitely never thought to do spring rolls with them). Now I’m hoping that I get more collards in my CSA share so that I can try this out.

  15. Betsy permalink
    June 20, 2009 4:40 pm

    Mmmm, these look awesome! I miss our times at Pho Pasteur – their peanut sauce is SOO good – I definitely will have to make these this summer! The collard greens are a great idea for the wrapper too.

  16. Julie permalink
    June 25, 2009 10:46 pm

    I made these tonight – both kinds of pork – and they were great. Thank you for the recipes. The peanut sauce may be the best I have ever had and I have eaten many.

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