The day I first tasted fresh Nime Chow, Cambodian summer rolls was a taste epiphany.
I was babysitting and the mom came home with left overs from a local Cambodian restaurant. She urged me taste some. I took a tentative bite, the clouds parted, God spoke to me and I knew that the world had shifted forever.
There was a balance of sweet, sour, salty, spicy, crunchy, smooth and yielding.
Every single thing about Summer Rolls challenged what I thought I knew about food.
The pliable almost sticky wrapper so different from fried egg rolls.
Fresh herbs being used not as a garnish but as a star player.
I had no idea the sultry depths of flavor that could be coaxed from the humble peanut.
I became close friends with the Cambodian woman whose restaurant made my first summer roll.
I saw her through a rough divorce, she sent summer rolls to the hospital after I gave birth, her children called me Auntie, my children threw their arms around her when they met.
We went to her mother’s 60th Birthday party banquet and were conspicuous with our western faces.
That first bite of Nim Chow, Summer roll, lead to a deep and abiding friendship. You don’t need to hop on a plane to experience exotic foods and form friendships that bridge cultural divides.
We all form borders around our lives. We build short walls and tall fences around our comfort zones. Maybe this week end we can each take a small step outside of those walls. Start a conversation across the fence. Maybe it will lead to dinner, maybe so much more.
Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Ripe mango, buttery avocado and a slew of fresh cut veggies for crunch sprinkled liberally with basil, mint and cilantro. Soba noodle adds some needed heft. Serve it with your favorite dipping sauce or use my super easy unctuous cashew dipping sauce.
- 1 large mango
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 cup herbs, I used a mix of cilantro, basil and mint
- 1/3 cup bean sprouts
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 med cucumber
- 1 pkg 8 1/2 inch spring roll wrappers
- 6 oz soba noodles
- 1/2 cup cashew
- 1 tbsp tamarind paste
- 2 cloves garlic
- 6 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 squirt sriratcha
Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Turn down heat and add your soba. Cook on a simmer 6-8 minutes or according to the package directions. Strain and rinse under cool water. Set aside.
Peel your mango and slice into 1/4 inch thick strips.
Peel your avocado and slice to 1/4 inch thick strips.
Slice your cucumber and red pepper to 1/4 inch thick strips no longer than 5 inches.
Shred your basil and mint to thin strips. Rough chop your cilantro. Mix all three herbs together in a bowl.
Heat a pan of water till hot to the touch but not simmering. Turn off the burner. If you've never wrapped a burrito or spring roll then you should google a video.
Place 1 rice wrapper in the hot water. Let sit 10 seconds and remove the now pliable wrapper from the water and place on a cutting board.
Do not over stuff. You will get the hang of this. Place a small amount of each filling ingredient in the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper not reaching the sides. Each ingredient should be facing the same way like a school of fish.
Tuck the wrapper around the "feet" i.e. bottom of the filling. Now begin to roll from the side tucking in the ingredients while you go. You want the roll to be tight.
Make all your summer rolls.
Toast your cashew in a hot pan, shaking frequently. I like to bring mine right up against the border of letting them burn. I love the extra flavor.
Throw all the dipping sauce ingredients in the food processor or blender and blend until smooth.