This one’s great to make with kids for so many reasons – not least of which is because the addition of red cabbage turns it into an edible science experiment. Watch their delight as the anthocyanins leach out of the cabbage and colour the noodles a delightful shade of violet.
- 12 red cabbage leaves (avoid any thick stems, or cut these out of the leaves)
- 50 g (1¾ oz) vermicelli noodles
- 2 cups (200 g) shredded cooked chicken (see tips) or fried firm tofu
- 2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon Vietnamese green or red nuoc cham (page 221) or sweet chilli sauce, plus extra to serve
- 2 tablespoons crispy fried shallots
- 12 round rice paper sheets, 22 cm (8½ inch) in diameter
- 1 bunch of Thai basil, leaves picked
- 1 Lebanese (short) cucumber, cut into matchsticks
- 1 carrot, shredded
- lime wedges, to serve
Place the cabbage and noodles in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water and stand for 4 minutes to soften; this will also turn your noodles purple. Fun!
Drain the noodles and place in a bowl. Place the cabbage sheets on a tray lined with paper towel to drain.
In a bowl, combine the chicken, spring onion, nuoc cham and fried shallots.
Working with one sheet at a time, soak the rice paper in a bowl of warm water for 10–20 seconds, or until just softened. Pop on a clean tea towel to absorb the excess water. Place a Thai basil leaf and then a cabbage leaf over the top. Add 2 tablespoons of the chicken mixture, then some noodles, cucumber and carrot.
First, roll up just the cabbage to create a small cabbage parcel, similar in size to what will be the rice paper roll. Then place it towards the bottom of the rice ¬paper sheet. Bring the bottom edge of rice paper up and over the cabbage roll, bring the sides in, then roll up to enclose the filling.
Place the roll on a serving plate and cover with a slightly damp cloth to stop it drying out. Repeat to make 12 rolls.
Cut in half and serve with lime wedges, extra nuoc cham and any remaining Thai basil leaves.
Rice paper can be tricky to work with, so if you’re just starting out or working with little helpers, try layering two sheets on top of each other for insurance purposes. It might be a little chewier on the ends with the extra layers and folds, but if it helps to build roll-rolling confidence, it’s worth it. Left-over roasted or poached chicken is best for this recipe, but if you don’t happen to have any, grab a¬ roasted barbecue chook from the shops.
Shred the cabbage before soaking with the noodles for a couple of minutes, then toss everything together into a simple cabbage-noodle salad, drizzling with nuoc cham and a little oil to dress.
Images and text from In Praise of Veg by Alice Zaslavsky, photography by Ben Dearnley. Murdoch Books RRP $59.99. To see more, visit www.inpraiseofveg.com