Living in Japan is the ultimate dream for a foodie, with an abundance of eateries, dining out never disappoints; the food always tastes good, customer service is impeccable and the overall experience is often unforgettable.
I’m a huge fan of Japanese food; it’s kind to my body, tastes great, offers an bounty of variety and acknowledges and incorporates seasonal and regional dishes. However one thing Japanese food does lack is spice. And occasionally I like to get my spice fix.
In the UK, my spice fix came from Indian cuisine, in Japan it comes from Thai. Before I came to Japan I’d never given Thai food much thought, I didn’t cook it at home and there wasn’t a restaurant in my area for me to be interested in. However since coming to Japan it’s become my comfort food, I can’t get enough of it. And so living in Japan hasn’t only exposed me to the delights of Japanese cuisine but also other Asian dishes that’d been unexplored before.
Thai food is noticeably popular here, with the restaurants offering pretty reasonably priced dishes and a certain quirk that you don’t find in Japanese restaurants. Although Japanese food is assumably simple to make, I still have no idea how to recreate most of what I eat at restaurants at home, Thai food is comparatively more straightforward.
At first the thought of making fresh Thai spring rolls intimidated me a little, thinking it was beyond my technical ability, but I finally mastered how to make them and I’m so glad I persevered. They are great to enjoy at home, serve to guests or pack into a bento.
Don’t be put off if the first time ends in disaster. I made the mistake of making them for my friend before having any experience of doing so and it ended up a soppy mess as I’d soaked the paper for too long, my friend was polite enough to eat them but we both knew they were a food flop. You may have beginners luck, or just be better in the kitchen than me, but remember not to leave the rice paper in the water longer than a couple of seconds.
Thai ingredients are very easy to find in supermarkets and foreign food stores so you shouldn’t have any problem sourcing them. For meat eaters chicken is a good option, or prawn for the seafood lovers. I sometimes have smoked salmon with cream cheese, which is obviously not Thai but tastes great.
- Rice paper
- Mizuna, lettuce can be substituted
- Sasami (lean chicken) and or prawns
- Avocado (to have with the prawn), not conventionally Thai but it’s a delicious addition
- Rice noodles (optional)
- Coriander (optional, tends to be hard to find and pricey in Japan)
- Thai chilli sauce, or you can make your own:
Quick and easy dipping sauce
- ¼ cup of rice vinegar
- ¼ cup of water
- 1 ½ tsp of sesame seed oil
- Juice from ½ lime
- 1 tbsp of sugar
- 1 garlic clove minced
- ½ tbsp of chilli paste
- 1 tbsp of coriander
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
For an even quicker option you can buy Thai chilli sauce easily in supermarkets.
– Rolling can be a little fiddly so prep is key, (a sous chef would be a wonderful bonus at this stage), it’s temping to miss out the prep, but you’ll thank yourself later for doing it.
– Chop the mizuna and other veg your using.
– If you’re making the dipping sauce from scratch, prepare and refrigerate.
– Boil the chicken/prawns and set aside to leave to cool.
– Rice noodles only need to be soaked in hot water, not boiled. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, remove the pot from the heat, and add the noodles. Let the noodles soak until they’re tender, for about 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry with kitchen roll.
– Arrange the ingredients so they’re within reach.
– Now you can start rollin’
– Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip one sheet of rice paper into the hot water for 1-2 seconds to soften. Lay the paper flat onto a plate or clean towel.
In a row across the middle, place 4 shrimp halves/4 small pieces of chicken, a handful of vermicelli, mizuna/letture, coriander, leaving about 2 inches uncovered on each side. Fold the bottom edge of the wrapper on top of the filling. Then tightly (but gently) pull the left edge of the wrapper over the filling and the folded bottom edge, putting pressure on the roll with your fingertips to make the roll as compact as possible. Now roll over, keeping a firm grip. Press all the edges together, once done set aside and repeat. You can cut the rolls in half to make them look prettier but if having them in a bentou I’d suggest keeping them as they are.
The spicier the better.
So there is my perfect spring roll combo, other ingredients that go well are, carrot, cucumber or mint.