Vietnamese rice-paper roll-ups are brilliant family food on every level. They're either (a) no-cook whatsoever or (b) very little cook, with very little washing up at the end. They're DIY finger food, getting you all around the table choosing your own fillings. They use up whatever bits and bobs you have to hand and are perfect for eating in two sittings - once for the kids at 5 o'clock and then later, just the two of you, with a cold beer and lots of extra chilli. Get in the habit of having a pack of rice papers in your kitchen cupboard and you'll always be able to cobble together a brilliant, balanced meal, full of zing.
a packet of rice paper wrappers
flat white rice noodles
a very large bowl or roasting tray
bunches of basil, coriander and mint
a mix of veggies
a few limes, for squeezing over
a handful raw peanuts
1 small pack of sesame seeds
your choice of meat/fish/veggie
prawns (frozen is fine)
leftover cooked chicken
leftover cooked salmon
mushrooms for a 'meaty' veggie version
sweet chilli sauce
hoi sin sauce
Takes 15 minutes
1. Boil the kettle and fill your bowl or roasting tray half full with hot water (you want it lukewarm by the time you sit down to eat) then pop your noodles in a bowl and cover with hot water, too. Leave them to soften for 5 minutes then drain in a colander and rinse under the cold tap to separate.
2. Get the kids to roughly rip up the herbs with their hands (it's nice to leave a lot of the leaves in tact, so there's no need for any fine chopping). Pop the drained noodles and herbs on a big platter or tray.
3. Next get the kids to help you slice the vegetables: you can do this with a food processor's slicer attachment for speed and to spare little knuckles. Add the prepped veggies to platters or trays as you go. Roughly slice any salad leaves and add them, too.
4. Chop up a handful of peanuts by pulsing once or twice in the processor, pop in a small bowl. Chop a few limes into wedges and add to another little bowl and pour some sesame seeds into a third.
5. Shred/rip up your leftover chicken or salmon. Cook your mushrooms or prawns in a frying pan or wok with a little sesame oil, chopped garlic and freshly grated ginger (this only takes a few minutes).
6. Now take everything to the table: your sauces and garnishes in little dipping bowls, the cooked noodles and veggies, your salad leaves, meat or fish.
7. Stack the rice paper wrappers up and let everyone serve themselves by soaking a paper for a few moments in the roasting tray of water to soften, then laying flat on a plate. Fill with a little line of whatever you fancy, folding up each end and then rolling away from you into a rolled up wrap. Squeeze over a little lime, drizzle over some sauce, sprinkle over some seeds or nuts. For the sake of the kids' white t-shirts, the garnishes and sauces are probably best off contained inside the wraps before you roll them up, but really anything goes. Get stuck in and eat with fingers. Repeat until full.