Salad rolls—those ubiquitous rice-paper wraps alongside your bowl of pho or pad see ew—don't have to stay confined to the realm of Asian appetizers. Here, local whole foods expert Lauren Chandler of Lauren Chandler Cooks shares a few simple recipes that use the easy-to-roll wrappers in new ways—from a showcase of backyard herbs, veggies, and flowers to a sweet roll filled with fresh fruit and amaranth—as well as a variation that ditches the rice wrapper for chard or collard leaves.
Hopefully these recipes inspire you to get rolling, but if the concept still sounds a little labor intensive, try it out with a crowd! "Salad rolls are fun for a party, because the meal can accommodate everyone." Just ask friends to bring their favorite fillings and proteins, then each person can mix it up with their favorite veggies and chicken, shrimp, tofu...the options are endless. Once you know how the roll the rice wrappers*, the rest is easy:
- Place a large plate next to the stove.
- Fill a 10-inch (or larger) skillet with an inch of water and heat over medium-low heat, until the water is a temperature that is still cool enough for you to dip your finger in the water, but too hot to leave your finger in there for longer than a second or two.
- Place a wrapper in the water. Using a spatula or your fingers gently press it down to submerge it in the water. Once the wrapper has softened, carefully remove it by picking it up at the far edge of the wrapper with both hands and drain briefly, then lay it flat on the plate.
- Pile the filling ingredients (heavier ingredients like tofu and noodles on top to hold down the lighter ingredients) in a horizontal line towards the bottom third of the wrapper, leaving an inch of wrapper at the bottom and on the sides. Press down on the the filling, then fold the bottom of the wrapper over the filling, pulling the wrapper gently towards yourself to tighten. Fold in the sides, then continue rolling tightly. Press the edges to seal and set on a platter. Cover with a damp towel while you roll up the rest of your meal!
Backyard salad roll
"This roll makes the most of herbs, vegetables, and flowers that are easy to grow in Portland," says Chandler, who recommends using amaranth leaves, spiralized yellow squash, mint leaves, purslane, bachelor buttons, tender young broccoli, chives, rice noodles, and sorrel. Serve with your favorite peanut or almond-butter sauce spiked with herbs like cilantro or parsley.
Breakfast or Dessert Roll
Fill your wrapper with cooked amaranth, fresh peaches or figs, toasted pistachio, and a honey drizzle. "For breakfast, try yogurt as a dip or inside the roll," says Chandler. Just remember to slice ingredients small enough to roll nicely, and don't stuff it wrapper too full—you can always make another!
Chard or Collard Leaf Wraps
Fill up your fresh leafy greens with anything your heart desires—like guinoa and arugula hazelnut pesto, or cucumbers, sliced snap peas, green onions, cilantro, mint, radishes, toasted almonds, and brown rice noodles—does it get any fresher than that?
- Cut along both sides of the chard/collard stem, up to where the stem starts to become thinner, about 1/4th – 1/3rd of the way up the leaf. Cut across the stems to remove. Repeat this process with each leaf.
- Place the stems and leaves in a steamer basket over simmering water and cover. Steam the leaves for about 3-4 minutes, until they are soft but not so soft that they will easily tear. Using tongs, two forks, or chopsticks, carefully remove them from the steamer basket and place in a bowl of ice water to cool. Check the stems for tenderness and when they bend easily, transfer them into the ice water. Continue to steam them if they are not yet tender enough.
- Lay a leaf on a work surface so that the tip of the leaf is pointing away from you and is face down, stalk up. Pile ingredients on the bottom 1/3 of the leaf, leaving an inch on the bottom and on the sides. Roll the bottom of the leaf up, tucking it underneath the the filling to keep the roll tight, then fold both sides in and continue to roll. Repeat the process with the remaining leaves.
*For noodles and wrappers, Chandler recommends thin Maifun brown rice noodles and brown rice wrappers. You can also find a wide variety of wrappers made of tapioca and white rice at your local Asian market.