Hosting a house party can be intimidating. Trying to decide on the perfect dishes, portions and plates can be difficult, especially if you don’t cook frequently like me. Also, catering to friends with different dietary requirements is another issue. Are they vegan? Is the food gluten free? More importantly, are they going to like my cooking or are they going to unfollow me on Instagram?
My foolproof go-to menu in this case has always been DIY Fresh Spring Rolls. It’s easy, fun, there are endless variations and your friends will think you are cultured and sophisticated.
Fresh spring rolls, called Goi cuon in Vietnamese, are basically various ingredients wrapped in rice paper which has been dipped in warm water. Families in Vietnam typically eat them with a large group of people in case you wanted to drop that line in the dinner conversations.
My recommendation is to categorise the ingredients into 4 sections:
It’s very common to see cucumbers, capsicum, carrots, cabbage and bean sprouts in Vietnamese restaurants serving fresh spring rolls but you can switch it up by adding mushrooms, jalapeno and avocado. Viet-mex?
For protein, poached shrimp is frequently used but for vegans, I recommend offering hard tofu which is cubed and pan fried for a bit of texture.
Cilantro is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine but feel free to throw in some mint, basil or even Korean sesame leaf.
A Goi cuon would not be complete without the perfect condiment. Hoisin sauce and sriracha can be found in most ethnic shops but if you really want to impress your ‘foodie’ friends, step up your sauce game and try making a fish sauce dip. Fish sauce can be very stinky but when mixed with the right amount of acid and sugar, it can be highly addictive. Just dissolve some sugar in warm water and then add lime juice, fish sauce, minced garlic, chopped chili et voilà! You’re a Vietnamese food expert.
Spread out the ingredients on your table, give everybody an empty plate and have fun checking who has the best spring roll rolling skills.
— Chang Sup Shin is the founder and CEO of Kaffe Bloom, Dubai.