I had 365 days to start with, now I’ve only got 148 days left.
I’m 62 recipes down, 53 recipes to go.
These shits are yummy.
I started by washing the mushrooms and chopping them up, along with mincing the fresh ginger, green spring onions, and garlic. While the mushrooms were frying I prepped the other vegetables, and the herbs. I decided to go with basil because it was what I had growing on my window sill. I had to break the Cardinal Herb Rule though: Always leave enough leaves that the plant can survive and carry on growing and thriving. Well I raped it for most of its leaves to have enough to make the recipe. Now it looks all feeble and naked. Poor under-photosynthesizing bastard. I feel like someone should wrap the poor thing in a blanket and find it a support group.
Now on to the fun shit: the rice paper!
I’ve used these slippery little fuckers before, so I arrogantly thought, “I’ve got this.” The stuff I’d bought had these ridges in them, so they were deceptively friendly looking. The pack said to stuff them in water for up to a minute to soften them. But the Thugs had said 10-15 seconds. Oh well, I thought. How hard can it be?
First I had a moment of “oh fuck, I didn’t read the recipe the whole way through.” (disobeying the first rule of Thug Kitchen. Whoops.) This was because the Thugs had said earlier to wipe the wok clean once you were done frying the mushrooms. They said it would save time later. I thought, “aw, how nice, they’re trying to help with the washing up. But I don’t have a goddamn wok, so this shit doesn’t apply to me, I’ll just scrub the pan later.” I know nothing about woks. In the past at one point, I had a boyfriend, who I can see now looking back, had a slightly weird OCD relationship to his wok. He had some special oil-only, no-soap-weirdness cleaning ritual going on. I should’ve sensed that it wasn’t going to work out when I realised that all the kitchen stuff he owned was a plate, a bowl, a fork, a knife, and a wok. His egocentrism knew no bounds, which later became apparent, and this was clearly reflected in his no-guests, one-plate-only mentality. Heed my words: a kitchen cupboard says a lot about a person’s personality. That’s why on first dates I don’t rummage in their bathroom cabinet like other peole do, I head straight to the kitchen to riffle through their stash of fake Tupperware.
Anyway, I digress. I hadn’t cleaned the pan, so I grabbed a fresh one and filled it with three inches of water like the Thugs had said. Now very specific instructions on how to do this if you’re not into inches and liquid measurements: You take my EXACT frying pan, and fill it with water using EXACTLY four measures from my minions glass. I have a friend who’s no good with distances, so rather than meters she measures things in buses. I’ll be like, “how wide is your garden?” and she’ll be like, “half a bus wide.” Or I’ll be like, “how far away was the cop standing?” and she’ll be like, “he was about three buses away”, while she tokes heartily on a joint. I’m the same with liquid measurements. I measure things in minions glasses. If you are minionless I can’t help you.
I heated the water to tea-like temperature and I flopped a sheet of rice paper in for about half a minute. When I scooped it back out again it had the consistency of a soggy, used condom. It was dripping and limp, so I quickly scooped it on to a plate to fold and stuff.
Then thinking “I’ve done this before I know what I’m doing,” I folded it in half and laid the lettuce (I used spinach instead. Just deal with it) and other stuffing on one end of it. I was about to roll the mofo up when I realised I’d placed everything down the wrong end. Instead of all the random stray bits sticking out the top, all stylized and glitsy-food-magazine-like, they were protruding out the bottom, forcing the damn thing to split open, like a leaking diaper that’s spilling its guts and won’t stay on.
When I did the next roll, I stopped being a smart ass, and paid more attention. This time when I dunked it in the ‘tea water’ I let it sit for less time. It still had the consistency of a used condom, but at least this time stuff was staying inside it. I’m not sure exactly what the moral of the story is but I’m sure that humbleness is key.
I’ll tell you this for free. The rice paper, knowing that it’s gonna be dunked in tepid tea water will decide to resist and try to flee, like the cowardly bastard that it is. You will need to force it under the water, like you would if you were torturing someone for information. Just think along the lines of waterboarding and you’ll do fine. Don’t worry, you got this. Otherwise the ricepaper will flop about and curl at the edges trying to flip and leap out of the pan, like those weird little red cellophane fish you get in Christmas crackers.
Once I got a rhythm going with the stuffing and rolling it was easy as pie, and my labour of love resulted in some delicious summer rolls. I decided that rather than make the dipping sauce I’d just use my friends chili jam. This was not laziness. This was intentional as fuck. It’s because I crazy love the stuff with a capital L and a capital crazy. This stuff has been made with love and shipped all the way from my bestie’s hands in England, to my kitchen (and taste buds) in Denmark. It’s sticky like jam, but spicy like hot sauce crossed with sweet chili sauce. It’s unpredictable too, like a sneaky little two-faced Gemini bastard. For some bites it’s your friend, some bites it’s making your eyes water savagely because it’s stabbing your tongue with 100 little chili daggers. That’s what I love about it. You never know what you’re gonna get. Taste bud roulette.
By the way, a few more tips for you, my fellow kitchen novices and enthusiasts. This may be obvious to you, but it was not to me. I thought I’d be clever and cut a rice paper in half to make a smaller roll for my kid, because there’s no way he’d eat a normal sized roll, and I wanted to leave out the ginger-mushroom filling because it would’ve been too much for him. What I didn’t realise is, if you fold the rice paper circle in half anyway to roll the ‘naked burrito’ as the Thugs call it, then it’s already that shape because you’ve cut it. So there’s no difference whatsoever. Or if you try to halve it, it ends up as a friggin tiny quarter with no space for any filling. So yeah, not my best move. Another bad move is getting you hair somehow rolled into the summer rolls. No one thanks you for that one. Trust me, fellow diners, it doesn’t matter how long, lustrous, or red your hair may be, nobody likes it wrapped around their cucumber slices in a summer roll. Things are chewy enough already.
The last bad move I have to share is when you leave the rice paper in the water, for what you think will be five seconds because you hear your toddler calling you, but then turns out to be several minutes because he’s on the toilet and needs help wiping his ass. Don’t worry! I washed my hands-thoroughly! But by the time I came back the rice paper was soggy as hell, and clinging to the plate like a g-string clings to a crackwhore in the rain.
All in all, a very educational experience, but worth it because they were really good and I could’ve eaten nearly the entire plate of rolls by myself. The only thing stopping me was that I’d had too much sneaky chili jam for my taste buds to go back for more. I needed a little break, but it’s nice to know there are three left in the fridge for lunch tomorrow. It’s a great recipe to prep ahead of time. The Thugs said they could easily keep for two days in the fridge, if you don’t munch them all before then.