Vietnamese Wrap and Roll

I recently visited Ho Chi Minh with my colleagues at the organic center that I work at. Vietnam is home to these wonderful pork and shrimp salad rolls. I can eat these everyday. They are healthy and do not leave you feeling heavy.  Since I couldn't bring my family to Vietnam, I brought Vietnam to our dinner table for my family. Put some lemongrass oil in a diffuser and enjoy a gastronomic trip with these rolls.

1-2 small packs glass noodles or harusame or vermicelli noodles
200 g thinly sliced pork
5-6 T The Best Grilled Meat Marinade (for cooking the pork)
1 carrot, sliced into long thin strips
200 g shrimp
a couple slices of ginger (for cooking the shrimp)
lettuce leaves (1 leaf per roll needed)
Vietnamese roll rice paper sheets
fresh cilantro (I didn't have these and they're usually quite expensive in the supermarket so I substituted with nira or garlic chives and it worked wonderfully -- but if you have access to cilantro, these are the cat's meow!)
cucumber, sliced into long thin strips (optional)

Pan fry pork in The Best Grilled Meat Marinade until done. Set aside.

Boil ginger slices in salted water. Toss in peeled and deveined shrimps. Cook until done. Slice in half lengthwise. Set aside.

Soak glass noodles in water for at least 20 minutes. Blanch in boiling water. Cool in running cold water. Drain. Set aside.

Dip two sheets of rice paper in water until completely damp on both sides and they have become soft and pliable. Lay on a plate one on top of the other. Put a piece of lettuce on the bottom half of the paper. Layer with carrots, coriander or garlic chives, cucumber (if using), pork pieces, and a clump of noodles. Fold bottom portion of the paper over the filling and fold in the left and the right sides. Place 2 shrimp halves over the top of the roll. Roll wrapper tightly until the edges seal shut. Serve with the dipping sauces below. 

Nut based dipping sauce

2 T soy sauce
1 T nut butter (I've successfully used peanut butter and almond butter, smooth and crunchy both okay)
1 T honey
1 T lemon or lime
1 T vinegar
1 T sesame oil
dash of pepper
1 clove garlic minced
chili powder (I eliminated this to make it kid-friendly)

Combine all ingredients and blend well. 

Fish sauce based dipping sauce
You may not be a fan of fish sauce but do give this sauce a try. The final sauce does not taste too strong or too fishy and is in fact a really delightful blend of sweet, salty and sour. 

2 cloves garlic peeled and finely chopped
1½ T sugar or honey
2 T lemon or lime
1 t vinegar
2 T fish sauce
¼ cup water
chili paste or sliced fresh chili (I eliminated this to make it kid-friendly)

Combine all ingredients and mix well. 

The Best Grilled Meat Marinade

Every Saturday between 11 a.m. to 12 noon, the supermarket we go to sets up several tasting stations. There would usually be a station near the meats featuring a yakiniku (grilled meat) sauce. The ingredient list does not match the price (Really? This much for mostly soy sauce?) and often includes MSG. Then I chanced upon a priceless recipe on Cookpad which yields a really lovely sauce. That recipe included MSG. I don't know why the author felt the need for it -- the sauce was perfect without it. I keep a bottle of this in the fridge and just add a new batch with the strained old sauce.

300 ml soy sauce

100 ml sake
100 ml mirin
5 T sugar
2 T honey
¼ apple or pear, sliced in half lengthwise
8 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 knobs of ginger, sliced

Put everything in a clean jar and mix well. Screw the lid on loosely. Leave in room temperature for about 10 days to age. Mix with a spoon from time to time. After 10 days, refrigerate. The sauce tastes better with time. You can mix a new batch of sauce with strained old sauce. 

Cheapo Aussie Bites

Costco sells bite sized snacks called Aussie Bites. They're absolutely delicious but also very expensive. A simple Google search yielded a copycat recipe, but I encountered a number of problems with it: I didn't have all the ingredients. I didn't have muffin tins. I was not too excited about the extra step of cooking quinoa. And it was a tad too sweet. The fruits were already naturally sweet and honey is needed to bind the ingredients so the sugar in the copycat recipe was superfluous. I also eliminated oil as there was already butter in it. So here is my cheapo take on a nutrition packed pick-me-up snack. Making them into bars worked fine. My kids absolutely love this and kept asking for more. 

1¾ cups rolled oats

¼ cup dried apricots
¼ cup dried cranberries (copycat recipe used raisins but I only have dried cranberries and I find they add a nice tartness)
¼ cup + 1 T flax chia blend 
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
(¼ cup sunflower seeds - I didn't have it for this time but if I did, I would add this in. It's still fab without)
¼ t baking soda
½ t vanilla extract
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup honey or less (maple syrup works well too)

Pulse 1 cup oats in a food processor until pulverized. Add the rest of the oats, dried apricots, dried cranberries, flax chia blend, coconut flakes, sunflower seeds and baking soda and pulse until dried fruits are reduced to small pieces. Add in the wet ingredients and pulse till blended nicely. Press into a baking pan and make sure to pack it in tight. Bake in 350°F for 10-12 minutes until browned. Take out of the oven to cool. Midway in the cooling, slice into squares. They may feel like they're going to crumble but rest assured that when they cool completely, they will be pretty solid.