Annabel Langbein: How to make fresh spring rolls (+ recipes)
The other day I jumped in the car, braving Auckland's traffic to head over the bridge to a Korean food market in Albany.
Earlier in the year a colleague turned up with the gift of a bunch of fresh shiso (perilla) leaves and a stunning portable Korean barbecue purchased there, so I'd been hanging out to get up there myself to check it out.
Walking into the store was like being in Koreatown in Los Angeles. The signage was all in Korean, the products were all Korean, and everyone spoke Korean and hardly any English.
I had no idea what half the stuff for sale was, but there were so many things I wanted to try.
I came away with red rice (my local Korean takeaway makes a fabulous bibimbap using this tasty, nutritious rice), fresh kimchi and a couple of packets of rice paper wrappers.
I could easily have stocked up on every imaginable Asian pantry supply - and it was all so cheap.
More than 200 ethnic groups are recorded as living in Auckland and it is now considered more culturally diverse than London or Sydney.
With nearly 40 per cent of Auckland residents born outside New Zealand and nearly a quarter of these identifying with one or more Asian ethnic groups, it comes as no surprise that there's amazing Asian food and a huge range of Asian ingredients here.
But it's not just Asians who are changing the face of the New Zealand plate. Half of the Middle Eastern, Latin American and African ethnic group populations in New Zealand also live in Auckland. Head towards Penrose and you will find some amazing Lebanese food.
Sandringham is a hub for all flavours Indian, and wandering down Dominion Rd you can pretty much eat the world.
From all over the globe, immigrants are bringing us the flavours and dishes of their homelands, making our food scene one of the most dynamic in the world. This is the new New Zealand, and it's making better cooks of all of us.
Tasting a new ingredient opens the door to a new culture and, with it, new ways of looking at food. Before long you find yourself referencing these new flavours in your own cooking, in new and fresh ways.
Rice paper wraps are a great example of the way a new ingredient assimilates and morphs into our Kiwi culture. We buy them, noting how cheap they are, and, back in the kitchen, quickly establish how easy they are to work with.
We make some rolls, likely starting with the tried and true classic Asian combinations. In such a simple way our culinary language expands and morphs.
At home, these ingredients make everyday cooking so much more interesting. Like all of the Springboard Recipes in my new book Essential, once you know the basic formula, you can change up the ingredients to suit the seasons, your mood and what you've got to hand in the pantry. This is the new New Zealand food scene. Aren't we lucky!
This is how I make fresh spring rolls:
1. Prepare fillings - I'll usually pair a protein, such as chicken, duck or pork, with vegetables for crunch and sometimes rice noodles for bulk.
2. Dunk rice paper wrappers into hot water and place on a damp tea towel to soften.
3. Arrange fillings in the centre.
4. Fold in edges and roll up tightly.
5. Serve whole or cut into pieces, accompanied by a dipping sauce (see Essential for recipes).
One of my favourite Asian restaurants in the world is a place called Slanted Door, down on the wharf in San Francisco. Recently I was lucky enough to meet the owner and be treated to a delicious meal there. This is my take on his famous summer rolls. They can be enjoyed whole or cut into thirds and served as a finger food. Get the recipe
The key with rice paper wraps is to quickly dunk them in warm water (don't let them soak longer or they will go soggy). Shake off any excess water and place them on a clean, damp tea towel to soften. Once they are soft enough to easily roll, use the stretch to create a tight roll. If they are too wet or over-filled they will split. Get the recipe
I like to leave one end open so you can see the fillings. I make them with roast duck from an Asian grocer. I ask to have the bones and neck packed separately, and boil them with ginger and spring onions, a strip of orange zest, a splash of soy sauce and sesame oil for a wonderful broth that I top with wilted bok choy and any meat from the duck bones and serve over rice noodles. Get the recipe
These are just three of the clever Springboard Recipes in Annabel's new book Essential Annabel Langbein (Annabel Langbein Media, $65), a beautiful compendium of more than 650 of her best-ever savoury recipes and cooking tips. Find out more at annabel-langbein.com or follow Annabel on Facebook or Instagram.