I love Asian cuisine. Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Thai–it doesn’t matter, I love it all. In fact, if I could choose only one thing to have for dinner for the rest of my life, it would probably be stir-fry. Buddy agrees.
Recently, we took some friends to our favorite Vietnamese (and probably overall favorite in St. Louis) restaurant, Mai Lee.
The menu is quite extensive, but every single thing I have tried has been outstanding. Lately, I have been having a difficult time straying from the Canh Chua Tom, which is a traditional lemongrass and tamarind base soup with vegetables and shrimp served in a firepot.
What is a firepot? Please see below.
Take a closer look.
Yes, this baby has actual coals in the middle that continues to cook the vegetables after they bring it to you. Pretty cool, huh?
Unfortunately three people at the table also got a firepot soup so I was sweating profusely, but it was worth it.
I know this picture is blurry but that’s probably good because I had beads of sweat on my eyelashes.
Another item that I always get at Mai Lee is the grilled chicken spring rolls. The first time I had these, I knew I needed to attempt to recreate these at home.
If you think spring rolls seem intimidating, I promise you they are actually easy to make! I also find making them to be pretty fun, too.
There’s just something about wrapping up a bunch of simple, fresh ingredients into one little flavor-filled package.
Vietnamese Grilled Chicken Spring Rolls
Makes about 14 rolls
14 rice paper wrappers
8 oz. thin rice noodles
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped into 3-inch sticks
14 basil leaves
1 package shredded carrots
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 head bibb or butter lettuce
for the rice paper wrappers: place a damp kitchen towel flat on the surface where you will be making your rolls. Place a large pan with about 2 inches of water and place on low heat. When you’re ready to make the rolls, remove pan from heat (this is where you will dip the rice paper wrappers for 10 seconds to make them pliable).
for the rice noodles: In a medium pot, bring water to a boil. Remove pot from heat and add rice noodles. Allow to soak for 3-5 minutes until they reach desired tenderness. Pour noodles out in a strainer and rinse with cold water. Place strainer with noodles on top of the pot to further allow any excess water to drain. When noodles are dry, pour into a bowl and mix with about a tablespoon of the teriyaki sauce (not too much–just enough to give the noodles a subtle flavor and prevent them from sticking).
for the chicken: Brush both sides of the chicken breasts with teriyaki sauce. Grill or bake for 15-20 minutes, until juices run clear. Allow to sit a few minutes before cutting into thin strips (at least 14 pieces, one for each spring roll).
to assemble: first, assemble your “wrapping station”:
From left: lettuce, rice noodles, basil leaves, green onions, cilantro, shredded carrots, grilled chicken, damp towel for rolling
This is the order that I usually place ingredients: one leaf of lettuce, small handful of rice noodles, a sprinkling of shredded carrot, 1-2 green onion sticks, about 5 sprigs of cilantro, 1 basil leaf, 1-2 slices of chicken (depending on how thin you cut it). This is what mine looks like before wrapping it all up:
To wrap: Like a burrito, very gently bring up the bottom edge up over the filling. Next, evenly fold in the two sides so they meet in the middle. Last, roll it up! Need a visual? Try this short tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTOgdljDwa0
Last, grab your favorite dipping sauce, or make your own with this recipe.