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I am more of a fan of spring rolls that are deep fried and cirspy on the outside with preferably juicy, well-seasoned ground meat on the inside. But occasionally (mostly at someone else's party), I will have a fresh (unfried) spring roll. I realize the reason I don't particularly care for this type has to do with either the vegetables they fill it with, the texture and lack of taste of the crepe, or the pasty, overly sweet sauce that has lingering rancid taste of garlic. (I'm a vampire.) I know of no traditionalist who will object to any of these and that's fine. But I wanted to create a recipe that retains some elements of the traditional taste without the qualities I disliked. So I changed the ingredients somewhat and tweaked the method to create what I think is a slightly more refined recipe that's still very much southeast asian but with a little pizzazz.
In a large skillet over medium heat, place two tablespoons of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter. Saute julienned onions until lightly browned (not transparent). Add whole cloves of garlic and saute until browned then remove. Add diced (small) tofu and leave alone until the edges get slightly crispy. Do not keep tossing or it will break apart.
Next add mushroom, carrots and heart of palm. Saute until tender, then add shrimp. Add salt and pepper to taste. (If you're in a hurry add some chicken stock after you add the shrimp and the palm and carrots will cook faster. Plus, it adds another dimension to the flavor). Set aside and cool at room temperature.
1 lb (16 oz) Heart of Palm (julienned)
1/2 lb. large shrimp (shelled & deveined)
1/2 pack extra firm tofu (diced)
2 medium carrots (julienned)
1 medium onion (julienned)
3 cloves garlic
1 cup shitake mushrooms (sliced)
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter
salt & pepper
1 cup flour
1/3 cup corn starch
1 cup skim milk
1 cup water
pinch of salt
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 cloves crushed garlic
2 Tbsp Chunky peanut butter
Next prepare the crepe batter. Add all the ingredients to a mixer and blend together, or place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until batter is smooth. In a 9 inch non-stick pan over medium heat, pour 1/4 cup of batter or just enough so it covers the entire surface when you tilt the pan. The crepe is done when the sides start to pull away. I find running a heat-resistant spatula gently around the sides help it along so when done I just flip it right on a plate.
Note that the traditional recipes call for tapioca starch (I use corn starch). I also use milk and water instead of all water. The result is crepe that is almost flaky and browned on the underside, while retaining a sturdy yet creamy white outside.
For the sauce, add the water, sugar, vinegar, red pepper flakes and crushed garlic and bring the sauce to a boil and let it reduce a bit. Note, I use red wine vinegar, which has a milder flavor. The asian vinegars are more tart and it's really just a matter of preference. When slightly reduced add two tablespoons of chunky peanut butter and whisk until thoroughly dissolved. This does a few things. The traditional way of serving this is with peanuts on the inside and on top. But in case someone is allergic to the nuts, they can forego not having the sauce and still have the roll by doing it this way. By incorporating the peanut butter in the sauce, it also automatically thickens it so you don't have to use too much starch. Thus, you don't have the problem of it being pasty. Plus it colors it nicely so no soy sauce is needed. Lastly by having the peanut in the sauce itself, the flavor is even throughout each bite. By using chunky peanut butter, you get the ground nuts as an extra crunch factor, too.
To assemble, lay a crepe on a large plate. To give it more texture and zing, place one whole lettuce leaf on top and a couple of fresh basil leaves. Then add two tablespoons of filling in the center, (just enough so you have room to fold the sides easily. Drizzle some sauce and fold. Drizzle more sauce on top and serve.
* Makes a dozen
by Loy Carlos