Pork Rice Paper Rolls (Instant Rice Paper Sheets)
Easy - You got this
In Vietnamese cuisine, a nose to tail philosophy applies to pork, and pork belly is unarguably the most highly prized cut for its ratio of meat to unctuous fat. Some popular pork belly recipes include: Vietnamese braised pork belly, a famous Vietnamese pork roll – roast pork banh mi, black pepper pork belly and Thịt luộc cuốn với bánh tráng (pork belly rice paper rolls).
Pork belly rice paper rolls contain soft and juicy pieces of sliced pork belly, served on a bed of rice vermicelli and a selection of Vietnamese herbs, neatly rolled in a rice paper sheet. I was introduced to this instant (no water dipping!) rice paper sheets version during my travels in Vietnam in 2017, and it has been a family favourite since.
Most rice paper rolls found in Australia contain a combination of pork and prawns wrapped in rice paper sheets that require dipping in water before use. In comparison, these pork belly rice paper rolls use instant rice paper sheets; simplifying the process and adding texture to the experience.
Another key difference is the way the pork belly is cooked. Pork and prawn rice paper rolls feature pork belly that is simply boiled whereas instant rice paper sheets are best served with slow cooked pork belly. The perfect piece of pork belly for this type of rice paper needs to be sweet, juicy, savoury and umami in flavour, while the pork belly fat needs to be soft but firm—similar to the slices of pork in the popular Korean dish bossam.
To achieve this optimal texture, the pork belly needs to start its cooking in cold water and brought to the boil. Aromats such as ginger are added to combat the pork’s natural aroma, along with premium fish sauce and anchovy salt for umami, and sugar to emphasise the pork’s natural sweetness. I like to use free-range Berkshire pork for its enhanced texture and richness in flavour. Finally, like cooking the perfect medium rare steak, it is important to allow the pork to rest prior to slicing to retain all of its flavours and juices, for the ultimate Vietnamese rice paper roll experience.
If rice paper rolls are up your alley and you’re ready to go beyond the standard pork and prawn rice paper rolls, do yourself a favour and fill your pantry with instant rice paper sheets, anchovy salt and premium fish sauce to experience fresh and flavoursome rice paper rolls like our family do.
600g pork belly, cut into 4-5cm strips
1 knob of ginger
3 shallots or 1 brown onion
2 tablespoons premium fish sauce
½ teaspoon anchovy salt
20g rock sugar or 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
Nước Mắm (Vietnamese fish sauce):
3 birds eye chillies, de-seeded
3 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons of premium fish sauce
4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons of sugar
6 tablespoons cold water
½ lime juiced
Rice paper rolls:
Instant rice paper sheets or rice paper sheets
1 bunch Vietnamese/cos lettuce
2 Lebanese cucumbers, cut into 5-6 cm batons
1 bunch mint
1 bunch coriander
1 bunch Vietnamese perilla (optional)
1 bunch Vietnamese fish herb (optional)
1 bunch garlic chives (optional)
How to cook pork belly:
1. In a large pot, place pork belly with all ingredients and top with water. Bring to the boil, then simmer on low for 60 minutes covered. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes. In the meantime, make Vietnamese dipping sauce and prepare the rice vermicelli noodles.
2. Remove pork belly and allow to rest for 15 minutes before slicing into 1-1.5cm slices.
Vietnamese dipping sauce and rice vermicelli noodles:
1. In a mortar and pestle, crush and pound chillies, garlic and sugar into a paste then add remaining ingredients and mix well until sugar dissolves and sauce becomes slightly viscous.
2. Bring a large pot of water with a tablespoon of salt to the boil then add thin rice vermicelli and boil on high for 7-8 mins then strain and pour into a large bowl of cold water. Portion out in small serving sized bundles immediately into a colander to prevent noodles from sticking together.
How to make rice paper rolls:
1. Place an instant rice paper sheet vertically on a medium plate. Add a piece of lettuce, some vermicelli noodles, cucumber, a selection of herbs, a few pieces of pork then roll up into an open-ended cigar with firm pressure
Duncan’s tip: Adding too many ingredients can increase the size of your rice paper roll making it difficult to consume.
2. If using rice paper sheets that require water-dipping, dip in cold water for 10 seconds, then add as stated above towards the bottom of the rice paper sheet. Roll over twice away from you then fold in both ends and roll until rice paper roll is sealed
Duncan’s tip: Roll rice paper rolls with firm but gentle pressure, like cradling a bird you want to apply enough pressure that the bird doesn’t fly away but not too much pressure that you could hurt the bird.