Posts Tagged 'Asian'

Vietnamese Noodle Rolls

Woman doth not live by plums alone – if she did, she wouldn’t still have a large bowl of plums taking up refrigerator space where she needs to put things from the grocery.  There are other foods…and there are potlucks.

I needed to bring a vegetarian or “dairy” (milk products only) dish to a potluck this week.  Naturally, I wanted Wow Factor, and low fat on the off chance I might have to bring some home – not very likely once you see them.  I have tried to make rice paper wrapped rolls before, and they always fell apart. Then I ate at a Thai restaurant where we ordered summer rolls. They were small and tightly wrapped, not the big floppy things I produced.  The trick is in the tight wrapping.  By the way, this is pretty much a no cooking recipe.

This recipe came from Sunset magazine. I was a little surprised at some of the ingredients – Granny Smith apples and French-fried onions? But they worked and were delicious.  I made a double recipe – 20 rolls or 40 halves on toothpicks.  This recipe is for 10 rolls. The trick to this recipe is to prepare all of the filling ingredients and lay them out in a row on your work surface.  Then it is kind of an assembly line process to put them together.

Vietnamese Noodle Rolls

3½ ounces thin dried rice noodles (also called rice vermicelli)
¼ English cucumber, unpeeled
½ large carrot, peeled (I might use a whole carrot. This seemed a little skimpy. At the end I was stretching the carrot to have some in each roll)
5 red lettuce leaves, torn in half crosswise (use only the upper part not the thick stem)
½ Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and very thinly sliced lengthwise
30 mint leaves
40 cilantro leaves
About 1/2 cup canned french-fried onions
Ten 8 1/2-in. rice-paper wrappers (bánh tráng)
Sweet and Spicy Sesame Sauce or your favorite peanut sauce (see recipe below)

Put noodles in a large bowl and cover with almost-boiling water. Let noodles sit until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Don’t leave them longer or they’ll get too soft.

Meanwhile, cut cucumber into 4-in. lengths and then into matchsticks. Grate carrot finely (the recipe called for carrot matchsticks, but that seemed too crunchy for me.)

Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Spread noodles out on a baking sheet lined with a kitchen/paper towel. Pat dry. Divide noodles into 2 long “logs,” then cut each log with scissors into 5 equal portions.

Set out all ingredients except the sesame sauce near a large work surface. Pour very hot tap water into a large shallow bowl such as a pie plate (I put the pie plate in the kitchen sink so it wasn’t too drippy). Submerge 1 rice-paper wrapper until moistened and softened slightly but not completely pliable (it will continue to soften as you work with it). The trick here is to dip it in the water, turn it over, and dip it again. That’s enough! Do them one at a time. Don’t try to be efficient and dip several of them. You will have a mess, and you will not get into the Zen of making nice noodle rolls. Also, unlike phyllo dough, which can be patched, broken rice papers don’t patch well. Your roll will fall apart (this us the voice of experience speaking).

Lay damp wrapper on work surface – I have large flexible plastic mats that I use – and put 1/2 lettuce leaf in center. Mound 1 portion of noodles on lettuce followed by about one-tenth of the cucumber, carrot, and apple slices; 3 mint leaves; 4 cilantro leaves; and a sprinkling of onions. Arrange ingredients into a rectangle about 4 in. long. Fold paper tightly over short ends of filling, then roll up tightly from the bottom. Repeat to make remaining rolls. Serve with sesame sauce.  This makes 10 rolls at less than one gram of fat/roll.

noodle roll whole

These are rolls on a plate waiting to be sliced.  I found that if you want to cut the rolls in half, you should let them dry for a few minutes until the wrapper is no longer slippery. This kind of firms them up.

noodle roll cut

This shows the inside of the rolls, which are very colorful. I put the toothpicks in before I cut them.

noodle roll platter

The platter itself included the dipping sauce below.  I thought it might have a little too much of a kick, but no one thought it was too spicy.  And you have to admit it all had that Wow.

Sweet and Spicy Sesame Sauce

3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
½ teaspoon red chile flakes
1 Tablespoon Asian (toasted) sesame oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
½ cup hot water

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  You can make the sauce ahead (the noodle rolls should be eaten the day they are made. Chill airtight for up to 1 week. Makes about ¾ cup, with 1.6 grams of fat/tablespoon.


Spicy Noodles with Chicken

Tonight is a use up the leftovers before they spoil night.  The chief leftover was chicken breast remaining from a roast chicken earlier in the week.  I thought I would use it for sandwiches to take for lunch, but it didn’t happen. The other main leftover was cilantro, which I used earlier in the pasta salad.  One of the things that annoys me about fresh herbs is that you usually only need a tablespoon or a quarter of a cup of them, but you have to buy the whole bunch. And then the rest of the bunch rots in the refrigerator.  One way to save them is to chop the herb up, measure it out by the tablespoon into ice cube trays, add water to the tray, and freeze the herb.  This is ok if you plan to use the herb for flavor, but not very useful if you want to sprinkle it on as an accent.  So I now have this lovely herb keeper.


The herb keeper has cilantro and mint in it.  The funny thing is, I bought this same herb keeper for my daughter for Christmas, and because it seemed so useful, I bought one for myself. My daughter came across the same herb keeper, and bought me one for Christmas – so now I have two of them.  I guess you can’t have too many of a good thing.

The original recipe for this dish came from Cooking Light, and seems to have been intended as a cold dish.  It is still too nasty out for a cold dinner, so I made it into a hot dish.  It is reminiscent of Pad Thai, but with a little more of a sour taste.  The original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of chopped dry roasted peanuts to be added at the end, but this brought the total fat gram count up to 8 grams/serving. Since I want to take it for lunch that was a little too high.  Besides, I am suffering from peanut paranoia at the moment.  You can add them if you want.

Spicy Noodles with Chicken

1  (6.75-ounce) package thin rice sticks (rice-flour noodles)
1 Tablespoon  dark sesame oil, divided
1  Tablespoon  grated peeled fresh ginger
2  garlic cloves, minced
3  Tablespoons  low-sodium soy sauce
2  Tablespoons  rice vinegar
2  Tablespoons  hoisin sauce
1-2  teaspoons  chili paste with garlic (or to taste)
¼ cup fat free chicken broth
2  cups  chopped cooked skinless, boneless chicken breast
½ cup  chopped green onions
¼ cup  chopped fresh cilantro

Cook noodles according to package directions (mine just needed to soak in boiling water). Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water; drain. Cut noodles into smaller pieces.  I used a kitchen scissors for this. Set aside.

Heat 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic to pan; cook 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat.  Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon oil, and next 5 ingredients (through broth). Lower heat to medium low, return pan to heat, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add chicken and noodles, toss to mix.  Cook 3-4 minutes or until heated through.  Makes 4 servings with 5.7 grams of fat/serving.


Variation: I think that you could easily add some chopped cooked vegetables to this, if you have more leftovers to use up.  I’ll probably do this when I take it for lunch. I also might add a little more vinegar.

Pasta Salad with Sweet Lime Chili Sauce

Another potluck.  This time they said bring a salad or side dish that is “dairy” – contains no meat.  To complicate things, I had to run errands before the gathering, and was going to a jazz concert after, so It couldn’t be a hot dish, and leftovers would have to be able to survive in the car for a couple of hours.  Since it is very cold, I wasn’t really worried about spoilage.   And of course, it had to meet my standard potluck principle of being something I could eat at the potluck to avoid the fatty dishes others brought, and the leftovers would be ok to eat without being too high fat.

I decided on a pasta salad with a Thai flavor so it would be a little different, but easy to transport. This was also good as a leftover for lunch, when I added little cooked shrimp to it one day, and tuna the next.

Pasta Salad with Sweet Lime Chili Sauce

1 pound small pasta (see Note)
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 green onions, sliced thinly
1 colored pepper, chopped coarsely
2 Tablespoons dried flaked onions
¼ cup cilantro, chopped


1/3  cup  fresh lime juice
2  tablespoons  Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
2  Tablespoons  sugar
1/4  cup  finely shredded peeled carrot
1/2  teaspoon  Thai-style chili paste
1  tablespoon  chopped fresh mint
1  tablespoon  chopped fresh cilantro

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Rinse under cold water and allow to drain completely.   Toss pasta with remaining salad ingredients (tomatoes through cilantro). To make dressing, whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour over pasta and toss thoroughly. Makes 8 1½  cup servings at about 2 grams of fat/serving.

NOTE: You can use any kind of small pasta you’d like – orzo, little shells, small macaroni, etc.  I was originally planning to use small shells until I found adorable mini farfalle (bow ties), which I thought gave the salad an interesting look.

VARIATION: I made this salad milder and sweeter than I might have if I wasn’t taking it to a potluck.  If you want to give it a real Thai kick, reduce the sugar to 2 teaspoons, and increase the chili paste to 1 teaspoon – or more to taste.


Carrot Cucumber Salad

This is a quick salad with a Korean flair.  It first appeared in Cooking Light and is a nice buffet dish. It also makes a good lunch take-along with a bit of kick.

Carrot Cucumber Salad

3 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil (available in the Asian section of the grocery)
½ teaspoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
2 cups chopped peeled and seeded cucumber
1 (10 ounce) bag matchstick-cut carrots (or cut your own)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Combine first 7 ingredients (soy sauce through red pepper) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Add cucumber and carrot and toss well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Makes 8 servings at 2.7 grams of fat/serving.

HINT: To seed cucumbers, cut cucumber lengthwise into quarters.  Use a knife or spoon to scoop out the seeds.


Szechuan Cucumbers with Peanuts

Here is a cold salad that will warm up your winter.  It’s a good buffet dish because you can make it ahead and add the peanuts and cilantro later.  Or even make it without the peanuts to avoid allergies. This salad has that nice combination of tangy sour, sweet, and hot.  The original recipe came from Cooking Light, and I served the salad at a buffet lunch in my office, where it had no leftovers to take home.

Szechuan Cucumbers with Peanuts

1/4 cup chopped peanuts (I use dry roasted to avoid the extra oil)
½ cup rice vinegar
4 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 ½ Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 medium cucumbers, peeled
1 small red onion (about ¾ cup), thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Toast peanuts over medium heat in a small skillet, 4-6 minutes, until they are fragrant and just start to brown.  Stir frequently to prevent burning.  Remove from heat and set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper, ginger, and black pepper.  Halve cucumbers lengthwise, remove seeds, and slice thinly cross wise. Add cucumbers and onion to dressing and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours. Sprinkle peanuts and cilantro on salad just before serving.  Makes 6 servings  with 2 grams of fat/serving.


Peanut Udon Noodles wth Lemon, Ginger, and Chives

One of the few things I miss eating very low fat, especially when I am in weight-losing rather than maintenance mode, is peanut butter.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are one of my favorite comfort foods.  I have been known to eat peanut butter straight off the spoon.  It’s not that you can’t eat peanut butter – you can eat just about anything if you account for its fat grams – but at 16 grams for a 2 tablespoon serving, it takes up a good hunk of your daily grams.  I did find something called Better’n Peanut Butter.  It has 2 grams of fat/serving.  It isn’t “better’n”, but it actually makes a decent PB&J sandwich.

So I am always looking for recipes that give me the taste of peanut butter but spread the peanut butter out over several servings.  I found this recipe in my daughter’s blog.  She got it from cookthink, a blog I am going to explore for more recipes.  It makes a good dinner side dish with perhaps a chicken breast or an Asian-style pork tenderloin.  I made it to have something interesting and filling to take for lunch.  A spoonful of water in the container and into the microwave – it reheats nicely.

Peanut Udon Noodles with Ginger, Lemon, and Chive

About 3/4 lb udon noodles (I used a half pound package of fresh noodles, or you could use about 3 packages of dry)
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ cup water
½ teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon honey
2 teaspoon minced ginger
2 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Cook noodles according to package directions and drain them. Combine all remaining ingredients except chives in a small saucepan and simmer for five minutes, whisking to dissolve peanut butter. Stir chives into sauce and simmer for another 30 seconds, then pour over noodles and toss to combine.  This makes 4 servings at about 5 grams of fat/serving.


Variations: If you want it to be very lemony, add another tablespoon of lemon juice.  Or omit the lemon juice altogether and you will have noodles similar the sesame noodles you sometimes get in Asian restaurants.  You can also sprinkle the finished udon with ¼ cup of chopped, dry-roasted peanuts, but you will need to add 4 grams of fat/serving, or 9 grams/serving total (but it’s very good this way if you have room in your gram count).

Hint: To chop peanuts, measure them out and put them in a small sealable plastic bag. Pound them all over with a heavy knife handle or the bottom of a glass or cup until they are the size you’d like them.


I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

More about me.

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