Exhilaration and Exhaustion – same same but different!



I am exhausted. There, I said it. I have been running on a fresh air drug of adrenaline it seems. I wondered when I would finally wake up shattered – and today is the day. Yet, I look back on the last week and I wouldn’t have changed it. Not one bit.

I have had the extraordinary experience of cooking at the Taste of Auckland. Not only was that a privilege in itself, I managed to cook with the most beautiful group of people I could have hoped to meet. The Vietnamese students of Koto who came out to Auckland to cook up a storm, were truly an inspiring and beautiful group. Their commitment to their cuisine, and to the charity that has given them a second chance at life, was moving. Facing jet-lag, their first trip on a plane, a change in weather and a makeshift kitchen, these kids of average age 20, worked without a hint of breaking. And boy, did we work. To roll 1000 Vietnamese ‘nem’ (spring rolls) each day, was phenomenal. The passion to ensure everything was authentic meant all the prep was done manually. Not even a mandolin was allowed. These kids were extraordinary. Infact, I constantly told them they were awesome. And I have to say, when I said my final goodbyes and they all chorused ‘orrrrrsome’ Chi Vanessa, I was close to tears.

I probably could write for hours about the Vietnamese, and in particular the charity, KOTO, which is itself ensuring food brings people together in a unique way. But, I figure that more importantly, I will share with you the recipe for the amazing Pork and Prawn Spring Rolls, of which we sold over 6000 across the festival.

Thanks to KOTO, I will also be giving away one of their gorgeous cookbooks. Thankfully you will get a new one, as mine is so well thumbed and used over the past couple of years that the pages are sticking together, and also coming apart from the binding! Click through to my Official: FB page for a chance to win, or message me if you would like to buy one – 100% proceeds straight back to the charity.  Please share this post if you have a friend who may enjoy this recipe or the chance to win this amazing cookbook.

For now though – here is a chance to have a go at rolling your own!

Pork and Prawn Spring Rolls

12 Rice Paper Sheets (some contain wheat flour so make sure you check if you need gluten free)

300g pork belly
12 prawns, shelled and deveined, sliced through horizontally in half
60g rice vermicelli noodles
12 soft lettuce leaves (butterhead was what we used!)
12 coriander sprigs
12 Vietnamese mint leaves (or regular mint; or Thai basil)
1 pineapple, sliced into batons
2 carrots, julienned
1 cucumber, seeds removed, peeled and julienned
1 bunch flat chives

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add a little salt. Add the pork belly and cover with a lid. Boil the meat until it is cooked – around 45 minutes. Check that the juices run clear, and then allow it to cool.
Bring a 2nd pan of salted water to the boil and add in the prawns. Poach for 2 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.
Bring a kettle to the boil, and pour into a bowl, over the rice vermicelli noodles. Cover and allow the noodles to cook and soften. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
Place all the ingredients into little bowls in front of you.
Have a pan of boiling water ready. Also, use a plastic board to roll the rice paper rolls.
Dip the rice paper into the boiling water, turning it in a circular motion, to ensure it is moist all over.
Place on the plastic board in front of you.
Place a lettuce leaf in the bottom third of the round circle sheet. Top with the leaf with some pork belly, noodles, pineapple, carrot and coriander batons.
Just above the lettuce and filling, place two prawn halves and the herbs.
Fold the bottom of the roll up and over the lettuce and filling to encase. Now, fold in the sides to create and envelope.
Start to tightly roll, allowing the prawns and herbs to be rolled as you go – they will face the outside when you are finished.
If you like, you can add a chive in the final roll and tuck it in so that one end sticks out for decoration.
To store, dampen a clean chux cloth and place the rolls side by side (but not touching) under the cloth.

Dipping Sauce

5 Tbs water
1 Tbs garlic, crushed
1 Tbs white sugar
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs vinegar/lime

Gently heat the ingredients on the stove top. Pour into a dipping bowl to serve.

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