Writing about food in today’s world is intimidating. I can’t claim to be the next Ruth Reichl. Those luscious stories of families going out into fields to pick peas, grandmothers slowly teaching children to roll gnocchi? That never happened to me. I’m the product of modern America, Lean Cuisines and Spaghettios.
My parents were always interested in food. My mother would pore over Saveur and Food and Wine, her honey blond hair spilling out of a lazy ponytail. She kept duckfat in the freezer and aged gouda in the cheese drawer. I crept down the stairs late at night and cut slices from the gouda by the light of the refrigerator. My father was constantly coming up with new culinary projects. Big affairs - cioppino, ratatouille. He liked flavors with a flair for the dramatic, even if the little details sometimes escaped his notice. He lives larger than life. More salt, he says, more vinegar!
I remember these things.
This recipe is a memory. I am five years old, white blond and curious. I pick suspiciously at the soft transparent roll on my lunch tray. Try it, Mrs. Mijo says. It's good. I nibble at a corner, holding it like a grenade. It is good. Soft and gentle, the flavors of the sea rolling out onto my tongue. Okay, I think. Maybe just a few more bites.
I’ve become a mad scientist, a tinkerer. Here, I’ve torn apart two classics - the Vietnamese banh mi and Thai summer rolls to come up with a blend of the two. This is a bright summer roll packed with the crunch of pickled carrot and daikon, the citrusy-herbal scents of cilantro and basil, and sweet crabmeat. It's best served with the spicy-sweet tang of the chili sauce to bring a little punch and surprise to the mouth, liven up your tastebuds. Yin and yang. Soft and hard. Sweet and spicy.
6-8 rice summer roll wrappers
1 cup crabmeat, cooked
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup carrot + daikon pickles (do chua, recipe here)
1/2 cucumber, julienned
1 cup butter lettuce
soak the wrappers in water until soft and pliable to the touch. spread out on a wet cutting board and layer the remaining ingredients, as shown, in the bottom third of the wrapper. bring the bottom of the wrapper up and over the ingredients and tuck under the ingredients, as shown. fold the sides in and roll upward until fully sealed.
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1 daikon radish, peeled and julienned
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
1 cup warm water
1 tsp salt
2 teaspoons + 1/2 cup sugar
put carrot and daikon in bowl and sprinkle with salt and 2 tsp sugar. knead them for 3-5 minutes, as the water gets pulled out and they soften. press and rinse under cold water. place in a quart container and, in a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients until dissolved. pour over vegetables in container. chill at least 24 hours.
2 tbsp sriracha
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
combine all. mix.