Asparagus and Shrimp Salad Rolls with Nuoc Cham

Crisp, light, healthy, crunchy, savoury, sweet and salty salad rolls.

Salad Rolls

1 sm packet rice noodles
twenty 8-inch round rice paper wrappers
20 cooked shrimp cut in half lengthwise (or equivalent lump crab meat or spot prawns)
10 or so asparagus spears
1 med carrot, grated
2 c arugula or watercress leaves*
2 c mint, basil or shiso leaves
1 sm bunch hives or spring onions, sliced lengthwise

In a medium pot cover noodles with boiling water and let stand until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels.
Prep your other ingredients while the noodles are soaking. Cut the asparagus into long and flat diagonal pieces or cut thin stalks in half lengthwise. The idea is to have long pieces. When the noodles are ready, fill a large, shallow bowl with very hot water and soak 1 rice paper wrapping at a time until just pliable, about 30 seconds.

Spread a wrapper on a work surface. Lay the shrimp, cut side down, along with the asparagus cut side down. Place the greens, grated vegetables, sliced onion on top of the shrimp and cover with noodles. Cover with more asparagus. The filling should take up about ⅓ of the wrapper. Roll up tightly, tucking in the ends as you go. Place on platter with the seam down. Cover with a damp paper towel. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and fillings. These are best made and served immediately but they can be covered with a damp paper towel and refrigerated for up to 1 hour. Serve the rolls with dipping sauce.

Makes 20 salad rolls.

* Watercress and arugula are available at West Country Herbs in the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market.

Nuoc Cham
(Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)

You can buy this but making your own will taste so much better. It should be a savoury, spicy and salty sauce. Adjust spices and garlic to taste.

½ fresh lime juiced (about ¼ c juice)
lemon zest to taste
3 T Asian fish sauce
3 T sugar
2 T water
½ Thai red chile, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1-3 cilantro leaves and stems, minced (about 1½ t)
1-3 mint leaves, minced (about 1½ t)

In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Reserve.

Thai–ish Asparagus Soup

If your asparagus somehow got left in the fridge too long and isn’t tip top, make soup.

3 T canola oil
1 lg onion, chopped
½ Thai chile, chopped fine
3 T finely chopped ginger
1-2 bunches asparagus rough-chopped into approx ½-inch pieces.
½ t salt
½ t black pepper
1 can coconut milk
5 c chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 T fish sauce
squeeze fresh lemon juice
chopped cilantro radish and green onion for garnish

Cook onion in the oil in a heavy pot over medium-low heat, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add ginger, chile, asparagus pieces, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, stock and fish sauce. Simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, about 15 minutes. Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender or do in batches in a blender. Taste for seasoning adding lemon juice and seasoning to taste. Ladle into 4-6 bowls and garnish with the herbs and vegetables if using.

Serves 4-6.