Today we’re cooking a variety of Vietnamese spring and summer rolls, which should be a great contender for the market stall – people already know what it is, but what they don’t know yet is how well this group cooks it. I have to say though that the prospect of rolling all these rolls worries me a little. I’m not sure I’ll be neat enough to do the job properly, but am ready to learn and take directions from the experts!
Even though we concluded last week by deciding on today’s recipe, there is quite some discussion at the beginning of this session on what goes into the spring and summer rolls. This is something that varies a lot by the different regions of Vietnam. After much discussion back and forth the group comes to an agreement on the recipes and start working on today’s pre-cooking task.
With a thought to last week’s blender issues, the importance of knowing exactly what is needed for preparing and cooking a dish has been conveniently highlighted. The women work in pairs to break down one recipe each, noting all tools and ingredients needed. This is called sequencing. The aim of this task is that the group enters the kitchen in their pairs and focus on the one recipe they’ve been given, knowing beforehand exactly what they’ll need to make it. It should streamline the process and make it more systematic, which is necessary when cooking in very large batches for a market stall.
With everyone’s tasks allocated there is not too much for me to do, apart from making sure I capture with my camera all the different stages of making spring rolls. I want to tweet the process in pictures to Social Kitchen’s followers so they can see what will be in store if they come to the market stall later in the year. The women are chopping and washing vegetables and then chopping some more. Everything that goes into these rolls needs to be very finely and neatly prepared and the women are truly showcasing their knife skills.
When it comes to rolling the spring rolls, Vui has got a great trick to make them all look neat. She shows Sarah how she cuts off the bottom corners of the triangle so that when she folds them over the filling the edges turn out straight and the rolls end up all the same size. She works relentlessly, adding a blob of filling on the pastry, folding the corners over, then rolling tightly and sticking the end down with the glue-like paste made from flour and water.
The fresh summer rolls take as much neatness. First of all, the rice paper needs to be wet, but not too much as it makes it too sticky and difficult to roll – and not too little as it’s then too crunchy to form a nice roll. I try my best with rolling a prawn summer roll. Noodles on the rice paper first, then leaves of herb, then three prawns on the edge so they’ll be seen from the outside. Folding over, then rolling, and before finishing I add a straw of Chinese chive. My rolls are far from perfect and get put to the side. They don’t look nice enough to sell!
It turns out, however, that Thi is an especially skilled roller of summer rolls. She works very methodically and all her rolls look completely identical. It is clear that she works to some sort of system. Thi tells us that her sister back in Vietnam runs a street food stall in Ho Chi Minh City, and that whenever she visits she helps her out. She is in other words a professional.
Before service starts, Sarah chats to the group about portion sizes – how much are the rolls going to cost, and should they be sold individually or a couple at a time. The women agree on two options, a small portion of two rolls or a large portion of four. They also have to decide if some of the rolls have to go together or whether the customer gets to mix and match freely. The group agrees on mix and match, which I’m very pleased about as it means I get to try all four different options! It’s completely impossible not to get incredibly hungry during these sessions. The options are: pork or vegetarian spring rolls, and summer rolls with prawns or pork and prawns. Of course there is dipping sauce as well, and hoisin with peanuts. It’s all very very delicious, and everyone gets to take a little box home for dinner. Otherwise we’d leave the kitchen teeming with rolls!