Tuna Spring Rolls

Asian food makes me happy. It’s so varied, flavorful and, despite its saturation of the US market, still a  little bit exotic. After a recent meal at the delicious Thai House South Beach I decided to try to recreate two of my favorite  and most frequently eaten Asian dishes in the comfort of my own kitchen. The result was a mix of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine together in a delicious and slightly different home cooked meal.

If you’re pressed for time the Tuna Summer Rolls (typically a Vietnamese side) are a quick and easy raw snack or dinner, while the Tom Kha Gai (a spicy Thai coconut soup) is rather more of a commitment, especially if you insist on home made chicken stock like we do. Both are delicious dishes, with distinct flavors and stand out ingredients. The best part though? Unlike with many Asian recipes you won’t need to completely restock your pantry with obscure one time use ingredients in order to make either one. The most exotic ingredient in both is Asian fish sauce, which you should have no problem finding at your local grocery store.

So, the next time you are scanning your take-out menus for something with a decidedly Asian flair, consider cooking rather then ordering. You’ll be surprised at how easy and satisfying the result will be.

Tuna Summer Rolls (makes 6 rolls)

1/2 lb sushi grade tuna
6 rice paper
2 ounces dried vermicelli  or rice noodles
1 small cucumber, sliced thinly lengthwise
6 or more sprigs cilantro
2 scallions, white parts only, sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp Asian fish sauce

Before you begin, set the rice noodles aside in a bowl and cover with hot water. Let them soften while you prepare the other ingredients. When you are ready to assemble the rolls pour the noodles and water into a mesh sieve and allow to them to drain of excess water.

Assemble the summer rolls one at a time.

Thinly slice the tuna against the grain. Cut six strips, each roughly three inches long. Place in a small bowl and sprinkle with the fish sauce. Slice the scallion and cucumber thinly lengthwise and set aside. Fill a bowl large enough to hold a single rice paper with about 1 inch of water. Gently dip one paper into the water for no more then 10-15 seconds, it should still be firm enough to handle without wilting in your hand. Place the sheet on a dry plate. Working quickly so that the rice paper does not stick or tear, place the tuna in the center. Top it with scallions, cucumber, cilantro and vermicelli. Fold each end of the rice paper over each end of the filling, lengthwise. Then fold one side of the paper over the stuffing to cover tuna. Tuck the end under the stuffing and gently roll the filling up, sealing the paper when you are finished. In retrospect I probably should have taken a picture of the steps, but you’re smart people and will figure it out. Just think of each as a tiny burrito and act accordingly. Just be very gentle. Set aside and repeat with the remaining rice paper. When ready to serve dip the rolls in fish, sweet red chili or peanut sauce or for more of a kick finish off with a smear of Sriracha.

Tom Kha Gai (serves 4)

6 cups chicken stock
1/2 bunch cilantro, ends discarded
2″ piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp Asian fish sauce
1 14oz can coconut milk
1 cup jasmine rice
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 small chicken breasts, cubed
salt and pepper to taste

In a stock pot bring the broth, cilantro, jalapeno and ginger to a boil. Turn the heat down and allow the mixture to simmer for about 30 minutes or until the broth is infused with the flavors of your ingredients. Strain the broth and return the liquid to the stove. At a low heat add the lime juice, fish sauce and coconut milk and stir until fully combined. Salt and pepper to taste. When you are just about ready to serve bring the broth to a boil and add the rice, mushrooms and chicken. Allow the mixture to boil for 10 or so minutes or until the rice is cooked and the chicken tender. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve immediately.