I could not decide which country’s cuisine to make for my South East Asian Date Night menu, so I decided to make a few favourites from different countries and a few new dishes never tried before. I ended up with quite a lot of dishes, so I’m doing this in three separate posts.
Vietnamese Shrimp Rice Paper Rolls with Nuoc Cham
This is one of the easiest Asian starters to make and so delicious that I’m always wondering why I do not make it more often (so much food, so little time).
Rice Paper Rolls
Makes 12 rolls
12 Rice Paper Wrappers
200g frozen shrimps, steamed
1/2 cup spring onions, sliced
1/2 cup cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup carrots, cut into strips
1/2 cup coriander, chopped
Mix together the ingredients for the filling. You can really use whatever you have on hand. It’s a great way to use up that left over braaied meat on a Monday.
Soak rice paper wrappers in warm water for about 30 seconds until pliable. Arrange a little of the filling in the center of a rice paper wrapper. Fold the bottom half of the wrapper over the filling, fold up the ends and roll up like a burrito.
Makes about 625ml
Nuoc Cham is a sweet, sour, salty and spicy dipping sauce used in many Vietnamese dishes. I find that the combination below is perfect for our taste, but adjust to your own taste by increasing or decreasing some of the ingredients.
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 of a lime, juiced
3-4 cloves of garlic , minced
2-3 chili, minced
Mix together water and sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add fish sauce, vinegar, lime juice, garlic, chili and mix.
Malaysian Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce
I blended lemongrass, onion, turmeric, coriander and chili with a little water to make a marinade. Cubed chicken fillets were then marinated in it overnight. This should really be grilled in the oven or over the coals but as I only made 2 satays for a starter I quickly pan fried it. I discovered that I did not have any bamboo skewers to actually skewer the meat so had to do some creative plating. I really liked that the lemon grass was quite distinctive in the taste of the meat.
I’ve made Thai and Indonesian peanut sauces before, but this was the first time I made a Malaysian one. I still prefer the Thai sauce with coconut milk, fish sauce and lime juice, but the Malaysian sauce was very tasty and a nice change.
I blended chilies, garlic, onion, lemongrass and ginger with a little water to form a paste and fried it in oil. Roasted crushed peanuts, sweet soy sauce, palm sugar, taramind paste, water and salt were added and blended.
This was quite a bit of work for a starter, but I’ll definitely use these recipes again.
Bok Lahong (Cambodian Papaya Salad)
Papaya salad was one of our favourite dishes in Thailand – so refreshing in the heat and humidity. Every country in South East Asia has a different version of this salad. The trick is to buy an unripe papaya. I was very excited to find a very green papaya but sadly it was still riper than it should have been when I cut it open.
You have to actually pound the salad ingredients together in a mortar and pestle but I was running out of time by then and a bit annoyed by the too ripe papaya. So I cheated by only plating the salad ingredients and drizzling the sauce over it. I’ll definitely make the proper version of this dish when I find an unripe papaya one day. Here’s a recipe how to make this dish properly here.
Cheat’s Bok Lahong:
Unripe papaya – shaved into ribbons with vegetable peeler
Carrots cut in strips
Spring onions, chopped
3 tbsp palm sugar
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp shrimp paste – roasted
60ml fish sauce
Wrap the shrimp paste in foil and fry in pan for 10 minutes. Let it cool. Mix together all the ingredients to make the dressing. Plate the salad ingredients, sprinkle over the garnish and drizzle over the dressing.
Note : The taste of the shrimp paste was a bit too overpowering for me in this dish. Adrienne loved it though.