The Virtue of Rice

So I said that it would be a while before I take up experimenting in the kitchen. Well, turns out, my mood has shifted gears, and I have taken back (somewhat) my momentum (that I had a lot of years ago) of bustling in the kitchen. Though, of course, now that writing has come into my life (thereby increasing the risk for derriere expansion) in a different pace and form, my time in the kitchen is cut back, forcing me to devise short cuts, innovations, and improvisations in my cooking. As life would have it, alhamdulillah, experience is now a new significant factor that affects my experiments in the kitchen, making the whole thing much much more pleasurable.

I just came to the realization that a lot of Malaysian desserts can be allergy-free, well at least for Zoa’s allergies that is. Alhamdulillah he’s not allergic to rice. When he was diagnosed with an allergy to soy, I told his pediatrician,

‘You don’t tell an Asian she can’t eat soy.”

Imagine if he is allergic to rice. Alhamdulillah!

Being Asian has its own advantages. It gives you an edge when it comes to making allergy free food. Well, at least that’s what I am beginning to notice when I see lists of food substitutes. For one, agar-agar can be a substitute for eggs, depending on what function the eggs play in the cooked/baked product.

But my main point: rice. While browsing the shelves in a new Asian Grocery store up north, I stumbled upon a product I am not that familiar with. As far as I know, we don’t use it in Malaysia, or in any of our cooking, and to be honest, I didn’t know how to use it, and more importantly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. Being Asian doesn’t mean I eat just about anything. I eat Thai food, but not necessarily Vietnamese, Cambodian, or even some Indonesian dishes, despite being half Indonesian. Let’s just say unfamiliarity puts hesitance at the forefront.

So as I scrutinized this product in my hand, I worried about how I was going to use it, so I flipped it over and looked for cooking instructions. I found it. Phew! Then I debated over whether I should try it at all. Popiah (spring rolls). I haven’t had them for quite some time, since I couldn’t eat the normal spring roll wrappers that malaysians usually use to make popiah. My desire to sink my teeth into one of those crunchy vegetable-filled rolls drove me to grab one packet of Rice Spring Roll Wrapper. I figured it was worth a try.

It was! Allahu Akbar! I made the filling as usual, omitting soy sauce. I filled it, and the translucent rice wrappers, a bit sticky and glutinous gave the spring roll a Vietnamese touch. Well, it is Vietnamese! I bit into one of it. After months of not getting to eat popiah, it tasted really good to me, but my kids screwed up their noses.

So I experimented. I deep fried some. I hate frying. I repeat. I hate frying.

But…the kids loved it fried, because it gave a crunchy texture to the rice wrappers. It took quite a while to get it to brown though, and the hot oil that popped and splattered from the pockets of water in the spring rolls was I guess, worth it? No. I made it again recently, but I refused to fry it. I brushed oil on them and open-baked them instead. Results?

“Ummi, those popiah are so good!”

I had made a whole casserole dish (9 x 13) of it the night before. The next morning, before I could even make my way to the kitchen, the kids have gobbled up more than half of them. By the time their stomachs were stuffed, there were only four left.

They asked if they could eat more, but I told them to leave them for hubby (and me for that matter!).

Baking them took quite a while, as it was quite some time before they browned to how I wanted them to. Even when I fried them, they took their own sweet time browning. I’m thinking it must have something to do with it being rice-based. Despite my oldest daughter, Ski brushing the sides of the popiah with oil, they still somewhat stuck together, but maybe they just needed more oil then. In all, I consider it a success.

Alhamdulillah. So I guess, now, we’ll make do with popiah, Vietnamese style! Oh, gussy ’em up a lil bit, will ya?ย  That’s it, a lil red here and there…now, that’s what I call gorgeous!

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6 thoughts on “The Virtue of Rice

  1. Assalaamu alaikum,

    The pictures are good but the last pic was just toooooo much, am salivating now and wishing I could just pick one up and eat it! What’s the orange sauce on top? Sweet and sour? Wish I could cook this kind of thing!

  2. waalaikumsalam umm ibrahim
    LOL the orange (supposed to be red LOL) is Chilli sauce..malaysian or indonesian brand I think. Very different from the louisiana Hot sauce or any other western hot sauce. It’s really easy. You just make the filling, with ground beef and any other vegs you want to add, you can use cumin, coriander etc..asians usually use soy sauce, but i omit it bec of the allergies. The wrapper, you can get it an asian grocery stores and the instructions are on the package ๐Ÿ™‚ The reason why I don’t write down the recipe is bec I eyeball the ingredients ๐Ÿ˜› maybe i should, huh? lol

  3. Kakjuli, your rolls look amazingly delicious with chili sauce on top.. masyaAllah! I have never used the wrapper before.. how’s that? this one look a lot thinner and translucent than the homemade one, great..I should try it one day. insyaAllah. Love your pixies, anyway! – hugs-

  4. Asalaamu Alaikum

    I used to eat this all the time..my first husband was Vietnamese. They call them cha gio (sounds like cha yaw) and they are delicious! I’ve eaten them both cold and fried. Yummy. I met a Vietnamese convert and she made some for us after years of not eating the fried ones (it takes talent not to ruin them) and I was so happy to eat halal cha gio!

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