One of my favorite kitchen exercises is to take a dish from one region of the world and reimagine it as something from somewhere else on this awesomely diverse planet we live on. The rice paper wrappers used for Vietnamese summer rolls are particularly well suited for this as they make for the perfect vessel to hold just about anything you might want to fill them with.
These avocado lox summer rolls with a tangy honey mustard sauce are the sort of thing that might emerge from the kitchen if you merged a pho shop with a Jewish deli. Along with the lox and avocado, there’s crisp mizuna greens and cucumbers, and instead of the usual garlic chives, mint and cilantro, I’ve stuffed these rolls with red onions, dill and flat-leaf parsley. The sauce still retains the sweet and sour tastes of the original, but infuses lemon peel, mustard and caraway for a delightfully bright sauce that’s a perfect compliment for the fragrant herbs in the roll.
While summer rolls aren’t difficult to make, the wrappers can be a little tricky to handle, so here are a few tips to help get you started. First, you want to make sure you wet the surface you’re working on, otherwise the wrapper will stick like glue to a dry surface.
Second, don’t over soak the wrappers. While it’s tempting to soak them until they get limp, this not only makes them harder to work with, but also makes them tear more easily. The wrappers only need to be submerged in water for a few seconds (they should still be quite stiff), as they will continue to rehydrate with residual water as you add the filling. This also makes the wrappers stick together much better, allowing you to use the wrapper like a rubber band to hold everything together.
Finally, you want to layer the filling so that soft things like the salmon and avocado end up on the outside, while hard edges like the cucumbers and onions are in the center, otherwise the sharp corners will poke through the wrapper as you roll it.
Avocado Lox Summer Rolls
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- black pepper to taste
- 4 round rice paper wrappers
- 5.3 ounces (150 grams or about 1 avocado) avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced thinly
- 2.8 ounces (80 grams) lox
- 1.8 ounces (50 grams) cucumber, cut into sticks
- 1.8 ounces (50 grams) red onions, sliced thinly
- 0.35 ounces (10 grams) flat leaf parsley, stems removed
- 0.18 ounces (5 grams) dill, stems removed
- 1.4 ounces (40 grams) mizuna, or other salad green
- To make the sauce, put the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, mustard, caraway seed salt and pepper in a blender and emulsify.
- To make the rolls, prepare a deep plate filled with room temperature water.
- Dip the rice paper in the water, coating well so that the whole thing is wet. It will still be pretty stiff, but don't worry as it will continue to soften as you fill it.
- Place the soaked wrapper on a flat surface, and then arrange some of the avocado and lox in the center of the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper.
- Top with the cucumber, red onions, flat leaf parsley, dill and mizuna, and then flip the left and right sides over the filling.
- Use your thumbs to pull the bottom of the wrapper up and over the filling. Your remaining fingers should compress the filling back into the wrapper so you can roll it tightly. This takes a bit of practice, but once you have it down it gets much easier.
- Finish rolling the wrapper and repeat with the rest of the wrappers. Slice in half and serve with the sauce.
Yield: 4 rolls
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.