A few weeks ago I ran into a friend from high school and after chatting and catching up over some beers Betsy and I invited him and his wife over for dinner one night.
There was one catch though: The meal had to be gluten free and dairy free due to some dietary restrictions. Of course, I saw this as a challenge and thought long and hard about what to make for the dinner. I decided on an Asian theme.
I’ll be completely honest. The main part of the meal was anything but stellar. I grilled some chicken which was pretty good, but I somehow managed to completely botch a pot of rice. Like, our dinner guests were nice enough to eat it, but umm… it turned out to be more of some strange porridge mixture than rice. I’m still not sure how it happened exactly as I’ve made rice probably a million times and can normally do it without issues.
Oh well. Goes to show you that sometimes things go wrong in the kitchen and you can’t do much about it except laugh it off.
The good news about my venture into the gluten-free/dairy-free world was the appetizers I made: These freakin‘ fantastic grilled pork spring rolls. This was my first attempt at spring rolls actually and while they were a bit intimidating, they were completely doable and very worth the work.
1) For marinade, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Then add pork chops to a plastic bag with marinade and let sit for at least an hour.
2) To cook pork chops, grill on high heat or cook in a cast iron skillet or grill pan for 4-5 minutes per side depending on pork chop thickness. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing into them. Slice them thinly.
3) Prep all over veggies for rolls. Be sure to spend time slicing thinly and evenly.
4) For dipping sauce, combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. If you don't have a food processor, just mix everything really well in a bowl.
5) To make rolls, start by pour some warm water on a large plate.
6) Add a spring roll wrapper to the plate. Flip it over once or twice until it relaxes and becomes flexible, probably about 15-20 seconds.
7) Move wrapper to a clean work surface. Add a few strips of pork along with a few strips of all other veggies to wrapper. Don't add the fillings to the middle of the wrapper. Add them about 2/3s down the wrapper, closer to you. Leave about 1/2 an inch around the filling.
8) Fold the wrapper over the filling, working away from you. Fold the edges in and continue to roll. As you roll, pull back on the filling to keep it snug and tight in the wrapper.
9) Once you have all the rolls wrapped, slice them in half and serve them with the sauce!
Adapted from a Rasa Malaysia recipe.
Prepping the Pork
The marinade for this pork is really flavorful and pretty important to the final taste. Luckily it’s easy to make. Just roughly dice up your garlic and chilies and stuff and add them to a bowl with all the other ingredients.
It’s a pretty dark marinade.
Add your boneless pork chops to a bag with the marinade and let them sit for at least an hour. Longer would be just fine.
I cooked my pork on my grill on super-hot heat, but you could also cook them in a cast iron skillet if you wanted. The brown sugar in the marinade will create a great crust on the pork, but it might cause some smoking if you cook them indoors.
A grill would be best, but use what you have. Depending on the thickness of your pork, the chops will probably need 4-5 minutes per side on high heat.
Then let them rest for 10 minutes or so and slice them pretty thin.
I was proud of these guys and honestly, they would’ve been great just by themselves!
Making the sauce
The dipping sauce for these rolls couldn’t be easier. Just add all the ingredients to a food processor and give it a quick pulse to combine everything. Depending on your peanut butter and hoisin sauce, you might need to add a bit of warm water to thin it out some.
It shouldn’t be clumpy at all.
If you don’t have a food processor, you could easily just stir everything together in a bowl. Just make sure to mince your garlic really finely if you’re using it. You definitely don’t need a food processor to make this recipe.
Making the rolls
I’ll be honest. I was nervous about these guys.
I wanted to make sure that I had everything ready, which I recommend, so at some point before you start rolling, slice up your red peppers, cucumbers, and basil. You could use lots of veggies for these guys, but these were really good as a start.
Spend some time to make sure you get nice evenly sized sticks.
Ok. Now it’s time to tackle the beast.
Spring rolls wrappers.
These guys kind of scared me because they look impossibly thin and fragile.
To use them, pour some hot water on a plate and set a wrapper on the plate to soak up some of the water and soften up a bit. Flip it over once or twice and after maybe 15 seconds it should be loose and flexible.
Here’s the thing that I wasn’t expecting about these wrappers that took me a minute to get used to: They are a lot stronger than they look. Once they’re wet, you can tug on them and really stuff them full and they are surprisingly strong.
So once your wrapper is wet, lay it out flat on your work surface, add a few strips of pork and veggies. I also ripped up some lettuce that I added to the rolls.
To key to making these work is where you put the filling. DON’T put it directly in the center of the wrapper. Put it about 2/3s toward the side closest to you and leave a good 1/2 inch to an inch around the sides of the filling.
This one is gonna be pretty stuffed.
Then fold over the end closest to you, tuck in the ends like you would a burrito and continue to roll the wrapper away from you.
Try to keep the filling as tight as possible during the rolling. As you roll, pull the filling toward you which will keep it nice and snug.
If it’s your first time making spring rolls, it’ll take you one or two to get the hang of it, but it’s completely doable.
I decided to slice all my rolls in half which showed off the pretty fillings.
Once you roll them all, slice them up, and stack them on a plate, you’ll have a really beautiful presentation that’s healthy and very delicious.
It’s kind of a show stopper appetizer if you ask me.
Of course, my dinner guests were probably somewhat confused how the same person who managed this also managed to completely destroy a pot of rice, but hey. I like to keep people on their toes.
I would guess that with all the prep time and everything these guys took me about an hour to make (but you need to marinate the pork earlier) and they were completely worth it.
I think spring rolls are going to be my new thing and it isn’t even spring yet!
Are you a spring roll fan? Have you tried making them? Leave a comment!