Maine lobster spring rolls with avocado, pineapple & vanilla coconut sauce. Perhaps, when we think of spring roll’s, we think of fatty, deep fried, brown rolls that are usually dipped into an undefinable sauce. Although this calorie packed food has its place, there is, I believe, a much better and healthier alternative – the Vietnamese style spring roll! In contrast to the well known, deep fried spring roll – which is most likely made using flour, the Vietnamese roll is made with rice paper and is often eaten without cooking. This is a food you may find in a Vietnamese or Thai restaurant and is mostly served with a sweet peanut sauce.
I truly enjoy working with rice paper and in my opinion it is actually a quite perfect food. It has hardly any calories, it is made from rice, it can be eaten without cooking and you can use it in sweet or savory applications. For our wonderful dish, we decided to combine lobster and avocado, which are both delicious served slightly chilled – it is summer after all! To add some dimension to a rather simple dish, we added fresh pineapple and butter lettuce. As for the sauce, it had to be quite special and I opted for a coconut and vanilla emulsion.
I have been working with rice paper since 1997. I was first introduced to this food while working at Lespinasse in Washington, D.C. by Hong Kong Chef, one of my favorite teachers who has had a distinct and lasting influence on my career. I will be the first to admit that working with rice paper can be a bit frustrating. However, I can also say that if you understand the process, you will have better luck turning out good results. What is important to know is that whatever you would like to roll inside has to be ready, dry and layered. As for the paper itself it must be soaked in water before it becomes pliable. Rice paper often rips, cracks or becomes a ball of mush as a result of soaking the paper incorrectly. It often works best to soak the paper in ice water which leaves you a bit more time to work with this ingredient.
Here is my setup:
- I have a cutting board with a moist kitchen towel (soaked & well squeezed). the towel will help to keep the paper moist while you work with it and will prevent sticking.
- I have all my ingredients ready to go. They are seasoned, dry and ready to be layered.
- I have an ice water setup with a pinch of salt added.
Here is how I roll:
- I fully submerge a perfect round paper, without cracks or chips, in the ice water. I soak it for about a minute. It does not need to be completely playable at this stage, just soft.
- I place the paper on my moist towel, wipe off access water and flip it around. Wipe off any access water and straighten out the paper so I have no seems.
- Now, I layer all my ingredients, keeping about an inch off the edge.
- Now, fold the roll like a burrito. While I roll, I gently pull back in order to pack everything as tight as possible. You want a super tight roll.
- If not served immediately I keep them on a damp towel until they get cut. You can only keep them for about an hour once they are rolled.
Rice paper gives you an empty canvas with a plethora of options. There are no rules except to keep the dish real, healthy and fun.
A note about lobster:
It seems in North America the most lobster is supplied from Maine, which in most cases works fine, however, you should be aware that there are more options! I most certainly prefer European lobster – which are mostly supplied from the cost of Bretagne, France (Brittany) and Portugal.
The coconut sauce is actually quite simple. We begin with an organic coconut milk and season it with lime juice, sugar, salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. To finish the sauce we cut and scrape a Madagascar vanilla bean and blend it into the coconut.
The avocado is cut into strips – to be included in the roll – as well as a puree that was added for a creamy texture. We garnished the plate with some delightful lucky sorrel and petite watercress that we obtained from The Chef’s Garden here in Huron Ohio.