I pondered a little bit before settling on my click-baity title. I'm not sure the world really needs a listicle about rice paper wraps, but I'm feeling relatively inspired about them, so there you go. For the uninitiated, you can usually find these wraps in the slightly culturally-appropriative "ethnic" aisle of the grocery store.
They come in two sizes, with the largest being destined for cold salad rolls (like these ones I posted a few years ago), and the smallest being typically destined for fried spring rolls. These are two absolutely excellent uses of rice paper, though I have to confess to being completely terrified of deep-frying (I'm still not over a minor kitchen fire incident that included spontaneous ignition of sesame oil [only a couple of tablespoons] a few years ago). Make-your-own salad rolls are one of my favourite summer dinners. The kids love them too! The grocery stores around me stock the Y&Y brand - it seems to be pretty popular.
But they can be so much more than that, if you only let them. I hope you'll forgive the continued theme of cultural appropriation as I try to convince you of why you need these.
So from least to most important, here are the five SUPER IMPORTANT reasons you need rice paper wraps in your life:
1. Rice paper is inexpensive. A 400g package of rice paper runs about $3. I haven't actually counted how many are in a package, but the Nutrition Facts Table tells me that 3 wraps are 20g, which my super-awesome math skills extrapolate to 60 wraps per 400g package. That is a tiny fraction of the price of tortillas. Can't beat that!
2. Rice paper doesn't go bad. Assuming you seal the package, it will last for ages and ages. Case in point, the package I used for these beautiful wraps had been hiding in my cupboard for at least a year.
3. Rice paper only takes about 15 seconds to soften, taking you from questionably-brittle to supple and sticky in mere moments. This makes itreally quick to use, and a great pantry staple to keep on hand.
4. You can eat lots of it! The nutrition facts don't lie. Three rice paper wraps contain 70 calories and 105 mg of sodium. I certainly wouldn't say these are a nutritional powerhouse, BUT the thing about wraps (for me at least), is that it's the flavourful filling that should be the star. A large wrap has about 200 calories and 300 mg of sodium, and to be honest, I usually want to eat more than one. One of the things I love most about rice paper wraps is that I can maximize the calories of the tasty fillings (which are usually more nutritious anyway!) and not waste all my calories on bread.
5. The texture of rice paper is fantastic. I've always loved the slightly squishy, slightly chewy feel of biting into a rice paper wrap. There's something almost magical about the typical basil-vermicelli-shrimp-peanut sauce combination. They are well-known and popular for a reason. If you haven't tried them, I highly recommend it!!!
And last, but most important.....
6. You can fill rice paper wraps with anything. As mentioned in reason five, the traditional ingredients of a salad roll are fantastic, and you can't go wrong. But I decided to have a little fun with mine. Go nuts and explore.
I mixed together a quick and easy chickpea-tuna salad, paired it with alfalfa sprouts (and as always, a caveat about sprouts and vulnerable populations.....sprouts are definitely a high-risk food and not appropriate for everyone...but I love them, and still enjoy them from time to time. I also had this fantastic quick homemade greek yogourt salad dressing, and the creamy tanginess was a perfect contrast with the chickpea-tuna salad and the sprouts. This was a fantastic (but also quick) lunch. Even if this salad isn't to your taste, I highly, highly encourage you to grab a pack of rice paper and experiment and see what you can do with it. :)
rice paper wraps with tuna-chickpea salad, sprouts and greek yogourt ranch dressing
(inspired from this Eating Well salad)
1 15- to 19-ounce can chickpeas
1 can water-packed chunk light tuna, drained and flaked
1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 t italian seasoning
4 teaspoons capers, rinsed (chop them if they are large)
2 T lemon juice
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T grainy dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
1. Combine the chickpeas, tuna, pepper, onion, italian seasoning, capers, lemon juice, olive oil and mustard. Taste, then add salt and pepper until satisfied.
Note: this salad is awesome on its own, or over a bed of greens.
greek yogourt ranch dressing
(lightly modified from Cupcakes and Kale Chips)
this recipe is great because it doesn't require a million fresh herbs, so if you have yogourt and a pantry, you can probably make it. A nice, much-healthier alternative to store-bought ranch!
1 c plain greek yogourt
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T olive oil
salt (to taste)
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 t garlic powder
1 T dried parsley
1 t dried dill
fresh ground pepper (to taste)
1. Combine all the ingredients. Ideally, wait for a bit for flavour to develop, but even if you can't, this dip is still fantastic.
To assemble the rolls, there are a lot of tutorials out there already, but here are my tips:
- Only dip the paper in warm water for a few seconds. It can still be quite stiff when you take it out of the warm water, because the water that remains on it will continue to soften it. It's a lot easier to work with slightly stiff paper than super duper sticky squishy paper.
- When wrapping, fold as you would any wrap (fold the ends in, then roll), but with rice paper, you can have a *little* bit of tension as you roll, and get a nice, tight wrap. If you pull too hard, it will tear, but the good news is, (as mentioned in number 1 above), they are pretty cheap, so you can try again. You will get the hang of it.