Saturday, 7 May 2011

Vietnamese style summer rolls with rare sesame tuna and fresh herbs

These rolls are packed with freshness and flavour, making a perfect light lunchtime dish when the weather's warm and humid.

Along with the juicy tuna steak I filled the rolls with crisp cucumber shards, spring onion, rice noodles, corriander, mint and basil. Use Thai holy basil if you can find it but I'm really struggling to, so am growing my own instead.

You can make them with all sorts of fillings so long as you cram in the herbs - that's the key to them being so fragrant, then use the dipping sauces to get in some chilli zing and tart sweetness to excite your tastebuds even more.

For two:
One tuna steak
A tablespoon each of black and white sesame seeds
A teaspoon sea salt
Oil for frying
8 rice paper roll sheets - get them from an Asian supermarket or order them online easily enough
Skinny rice noodles made up as per the pack instructions, then cooled under cold water and drained - I used one large sheet of rice noodles
A teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Quarter of a large cucumber, cored and cut into fine strips
2 spring onions, top and tailed, cut in half and finely shredded
Half a red onion, peeled, halved and very finely sliced
A handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
A handful of fresh basil
A handful of fresh corriander - roots chopped finely, leaves left whole
Juice of half a juicy lemon
A tablespoon fish sauce
Two heaped teaspoons grated palm sugar
Sweet chilli sauce (bought, I don't make my own or at least not for this)

- To give your dressing time to steep make that first, simply combine the lemon juice, palm sugar and fish sauce in a pot and stir, then set aside
- Turn your oven on to 50 degrees and lay your cold rice noodles out onto a baking sheet, bake in the oven for around 20 minutes - this is only to dry them out so the rolls don't get soggy, not to cook them. Turn them over once whilst drying
- Onto a small plate sprinkle out your sesame seeds and salt, and lay the tuna steak onto the plate, turn it over on both sides and all edges until its covered in the seeds and salt
- Heat a frying pan on a high heat, add a drop of oil to the pan and wait for it to get hot. Take your tuna steak and place it into the hot pan - cook for a minute on each side and then the edges (longer if the steak is thicker - just remember you want it to be rare inside)
- Remove the tuna from the pan and set on a chopping board, slice into strips then break those strips into the flakes, set aside
- In a bowl combine the herbs, spring onions, red onion, cucumber and sesame oil and toss together with your hands, now add the tuna to the mixture and combine gently
- Take the noodles out of the oven
- Fill a large bowl with water that's a hot as your hands can stand, place a plate in front of you to work on
- Take one of the rice paper sheets and submerge it in the water for around 20 seconds, or until it has just turned soft, remove it carefully so it doesn't tear and lay it out on the plate in front of you, smoothing out any bubbles or folds
- Lay some rice noodles down first, horizontally and closer to you than the centre of the sheet - a small bunch, and then on top lay the herb and tuna mixture
- Bring the sides in on the rolls as in the picture and then fold the bottom edge that's closet to you up and over - attaching to the brought in edges. Now as you would with a spring roll, tuck the ingredients down into the envelope you've created, and begin folding it over into a roll, roll it over and over until its totally closed, sealed and you have your summer roll ready. Repeat with the other sheets until all the mixture is used up
- Decant the sweet chilli sauce into a pot or glass, and do the same with the fish sauce and palm sugar dressing into another glass
- Plate the rolls together (for prettiness!), dress with a few more fresh herbs and serve with the dipping sauces

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