Littlestpea cooking school, episode 1

July 21, 2008

Now I will comply to starhillgirl’s request of a photorific, detailed entry on how I make spring rolls and Thai sweet chili sauce. I love making these, though I think they are best done party style, and everyone can have a fun time making their own – having the sauce and veggies/noodles prepped is key.

First, here are all the ingredients that are required. The brands shown are my favorites for various reasons – for example, I like those rice sheets best because I’ve found they are less prone to rippage and have less “rejects” than other brands.

Let’s make the sauce first, shall we? I like mine HOTTTT, so I use both fresh chili and jarred chili paste. You can use either or both as well, and you’d want to 1/2 what I use for a less spicy sauce.

Remember, SAFETY FIRST when playing with the hots. Either dive into your safer sex kit or just buy some vinyl gloves to prevent getting chili oil on your hands which can then either burn your own eyes and nasal passages if you don’t wash well enough, or worst case…uh, someone else. I don’t think I need to go any further with this precaution except to say that unfortunately I’ve been there and it ain’t pretty.

Next, combine 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, your fresh chili, 1 big tsp of chili paste and 1 tbsp of fish sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let cook down for five minutes after which you can remove from the heat. Squeeze….one good squeeze of lime juice into your sauce. I like mine slightly thicker (think coating the back of a spoon) and so I often make a slurry of 1 tsp cornstarch and a bit of water and add it in at this point too. Give a good stir, and let it cool down for about an hour or so. You should probably be “cooking” your rice noodles about now too – I put mine in the pot with cold water, and a bit of salt, and then bring it up to a boil. After it hits the boil I kill the heat and cover and let sit till they are perfect. Drain, and rinse till cold. I then put them in a bowl with a bit of water and also cut them while in the bowl like i was making a cross to make them easier to manage.

Next set up your assembly line. Cut cucumber and carrots (and anything else you’d like to put in) into uniform, slightly larger than matchstick sizes. Cut your iceberg lettuce into similar sized strips. Pick the nicest pieces of mint and cilantro that you have and remove stems.

Fill a shallow vessel with warmish water so that you can soak the rice paper sheets. Also handy is a plate covered in saran wrap for when you’re done making your roll. These things stick to anything so saran wrap is your friend. Soak a rice sheet until it is softened. Depending on your water temperature this can take anywhere from 20 seconds to a minute – just make sure there are no “crispy spots” on it.

Carefully remove rice sheet and put it on your prep plate. To make the prettiest rolls possible *noting that after you make one or two perfect ones, you will realize that you are not a restaurant and will just shove all the stuff in there* you will want the herbs visible on the top layer so place the mint and cilantro greenest side down at the top of the roll.

Next put just a small amount, like a 1/4 cup or less full of noodles on top of the herbs. Seriously, not too much. Over stuffing rolls leads to blow outs and no one likes a blow out. Yes this means you probably made too many noodles but it’s ok, you can just make a stir-fry out of them tomorrow.

Start layering on your fillings, again not too much. You’ll see that’s where the uniformity in the pieces comes in handy. Everything is the same size so that nothing pokes out of the side of the roll – genius, eh? I like putting the lettuce on last, it seems to keep all the insides on…the inside.

On to the roll. Slowly and carefully start rolling forwards, pressing any air out of the roll and trying to keep it all neat and compact. You’ll be happy you did this when you are eating them and the insides don’t end up in one gloopy big plop on your shirt or in your lap. Not that that has ever happened to me before. As your rolling try to keep the sides pretty flat and less….tight and rolled in on itself. This will help when you get to the next part.

Just past halfway on your roll it’s time to tuck the sides in. This part is very very much like burrito making. In fact the whole thing is sort of like making burritos, but with a lot less cooking.

Continue to roll until you are out of wrapper, again, pressing air out and keeping everything tight and smooth. You will then be rewarded with a perfect vegetable spring roll. Yum.

Lather rinse and repeat. Remember to separate layers of rolls with an extra piece of saran wrap or else they will all stick together and you will be a very very sad person who worked too hard to have that happen to them.

That’s it – if it’s a party, dip into your chili sauce and eat NOW.

Honestly though, the consistency firms up very nicely after about an hour in the fridge. They also work very well the next day as lunch – still make sure to follow the saran wrap rules.

Not only are they nutritious – they can be made even more nourishing with the addition of shrimp. You can go all fancy and figure out the herbs on one side and two shrimp on the other so the presentation is awesome.

PS: I apologize in advance if the photos/spacing is messed up. I’m not pleased with WP at the moment.


  1. WOW that was such an awesome post and presentation. I am truly impressed. they also look sooo yummy. I really like the recipe for the sauce I have always wondered.

    I am soooo begging for invites to your parties when I get on that side of the continent.


  2. Um, I have totally been there. Ooooouch. Love the recipe, I am feeling hopeful I can try to emulate your cooking skillz…by the way, I will be in Maine on the 1st!

  3. Wow. I have to totally try those. Loved the chili sauce recipe as well. Super-thin shaved cooked chicken might be yummy in there as well (L is allergic to shrimp). Have you ever made that great peanut sauce? I can’t find a decent recipe. Wow. Gotta. Try. Those. Damn.

  4. Dude, sister – if we didn’t look alike, I’d wonder how we were related.

    Now, get back in the kitchen, and make me some of those for when i get home.

  5. Thanks for this. You are quite the chef.

  6. You’ll never guess what I made for dinner last night! Before I read your post! Crazy! Yours are much prettier and tighter (heh) than mine (the herbs going down first is brilliant) and I am soooooo glad to have a sauce recipe. I faked it, as usual. The fresh chili plus paste sounds perfect. I used cabbage instead of lettuce, because I have 50 thousand heads of cabbage. What is the difference between cellophane noodles and rice sticks?

  7. You should have your own show on the Food Network. You rock!

  8. oy yum.

    talk about food porn!

  9. […] the recipe chronicled here for sweet Thai chili sauce my friend J and I grilled a ton of wings and coated them in the lovely […]

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