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Rice Wraps

Celiacs can take some tips from Vietnamese cooking.  I borrowed these tips with permission from the web site www.vietworldkitchen.com.  It works great!

Vietnamese often wrap food up in sheaths of translucent rice paper (banh trang). Aside from looking pretty and holding a bunch of goodies together, they contribute chewy texture and a slight tang to whatever they encase. If you've never wrapped with banh trang, don't be daunted. It's like making a burrito.

Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome pictureBelow are some helpful hints:

Choose a comfortable size. The most widely available size at Asian markets is the 81/2-inch circle (about the size of a regular flour tortilla). It's the easiest to manipulate, and all the recipes in this book use that size. Extra skilled cooks use the smaller circles and triangles for making tiny, thumb-size rolls.

Select a type and brand. Rice paper nowadays is much easier to work with than the ones of the past, which required super hot water to soften. When shopping for rice paper, look for ones made with rice or a combination of rice and tapioca starch. The more rice that's in the papers, the more opaque and thicker they are. Papers made with rice and tapioca starch are on the translucent side and seem loftier in their packaging; these thinner ones conveniently soften in warm or lukewarm water, whereas the thicker ones need hotter water. Avoid the super thin, see-through, all-tapioca starch papers, which lack the tang of rice, go limp in a flash, and tear easily; they're often labeled banh trang deo (soft and pliable rice paper) or banh trang mong (thin rice paper). Despite what the ingredients listing may say, rice paper doesn't contain wheat flour; it's a translation problem. The reliable Red Rose brand is borrowed by many producers as a symbol of quality. The imposters are often quite good so don't shy away from them. To deal with these vagaries, patronize a reputable market and try several brands to find one you like. A higher price usually reflects a better product.

Have water handy. To make rice paper pliable and usable, just use water. I typically fill a wide shallow bowl partway with water; a baking dish may be substituted. The water temperature depends on the type of rice paper. In general, thinner rice paper requires cooler water. When making hand rolls at the table, set out one or two communal dipping bowls for guests. If the papers require hot water, consider using a portable electric burner. Warm it up in advance and boil the water on the stove first. Then pour the hot water into a wide shallow pan and set it on the electric burner. See the image below.

Individually soften. Rice papers that are softened by the stack stick and are hard to pry apart. Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome picture

Horizontally dip and slide. When dipping rice papers in water, aim to moderately wet (not completely soften) both sides. Horizontally slide or rotate each rice paper. If rice paper lingers in water for too long, it goes limp and may collapse on itself and stick. After dipping, put the paper on a flat work surface. If you're making a bunch of rolls in advance of serving, work in batches and use a large work surface like a cutting board, inverted baking sheet, or dishtowel. For do-it-yourself hand rolls that are part of a meal, have guests put wet rice papers on their dinner plates. Whatever size and or method you choose, you're aiming for limpness. When you've reached this point, place the rice paper on a flat work surface (e.g., a cutting board or dinner plate).

Ann from Manhattan, NY, likes to use a lint-free, non-terry towel to work on. She suggests:

Use a damp/wet towel as a work surface. The towel acts to absorb any excess water that may still be on the rice paper. This prevents soggy rice paper. The key is making sure the towel is not so wet that it is dripping, (because then the towel won't absorb the excess water from the rice paper), but not so dry that the rice paper will stick to it when you try to make your roll. If the rice paper is sticking you know that the towelis not wet enought. I like to wet the towel under the sink and lightly wring it out. I even have special towels that I've bought and use just for our spring roll dinners.

Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome pictureWait for the right moment. Once rice paper has been exposed to hot water, it immediately goes limp, starts to soften, and continues to do so as it cools. This is why there's normally a short waiting period as you're staring down at your work surface, waiting for the right moment-when it is flexible, slightly tacky, and perfect for wrapping up a delicious morsel of food!

Use economy of scale. To wrap for a crowd, forget about dipping and stopping to wrap one roll at a time. Instead, work in batches by individually dipping several rice papers and setting them out on a flat working surface (e.g., large cutting board or upside down baking sheet). By the time you've dipped your last paper of the batch, the first one should ready for filling and rolling.

Wrap like a burrito. If you're using circles, use either the "Open Top Method" or the "Closed Ends Method" to wrap. This all depends on your particular purpose. With triangles, position the curved edge closest to you and follow the "Closed Ends Method" guidelines for positioning your filling and wrapping. If you mess up, remember that rice paper is forgiving. Plus, an 8- or 12-ounce package contains plenty of papers for you to practice with in your initial forays. Boo-boos are yours to eat!

Open Top Method - good for creating handrolls
Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome picture
Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome picture
Step 1: Layer in your filling in the middle toward the top of the rice paper. Step 2: Bring the lower bottom flap up.
Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome picture
Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome picture
Step 3: Fold one side over the filling. Here, I folded over the right side first. Step 4: Fold the other side over the filling to finish with an open top burrito!


Closed Ends Method - good for salad rolls (goi cuon), imperial rolls (cha gio), etc.
Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome picture
Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome picture
Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome picture
Step 1: Mentally divide the circle up into 3 horizontal sections. Center the filling in the bottom third.
Step 2: Bring the lower edge up over the filling.
Step 3: Fold one of the two side edges.
Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome picture
Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome picture
Rice Wraps - Celiac Syndrome picture
Step 4: Fold the other side edge in and over part of the filling.
Step 5: Roll the wrap upwards.

Step 6: Roll again to form a small burrito-like package.

Adapted from http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/features/ricepaper.htm with permission.

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