Ina Balin's Imperial Spring Rolls
2 Oriental black mushrooms
2 ounces cellophane noodles
1 1/2 pounds lean ground pork
1/2 large carrot, grated
6 to 8 drops sesame oil
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce (salty fish sauce)
Garlic salt to taste
About 20 dried rice papers
Bacon drippings (or corn or peanut oil)
2 scallion water lilies for garnish
Soak mushrooms about 5 minutes in enough hot water to cover. When softened, drain; dry on paper toweling. Mince with sharp knife or cleaver. Soak noodles in enough warm water to cover for 1 minute. Drain. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
Place mushrooms, noodles, pork, carrot, sesame oil, lime juice and fish sauce in bowl. Mix well with fingers. Add garlic salt. Place 1 rice paper on flat surface. Dampen both sides of paper lightly to facilitate folding. Put 1/4 cup filling, shaped into rectangle, on center of paper. Roll over 1 side of paper, covering filling. Fold over second side, overlapping filling. Roll tightly away from you, forming tight roll. Repeat until all filling is used. (Recipe allows for extra rice papers in case papers tear.)
In large (12-inch) skillet, heat enough bacon drippings (or oil) to cover about 1/3 of spring roll. Fry rolls over medium heat, turning occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove with spatula or slotted spoon. Drain on absorbent paper. Serve piping hot or cold. Decorate serving platters with scallion water lilies. Makes about 12 rolls.
Notes: Oriental ingredients are available at stores that sell Oriental foods. Corn or peanut oil can be used for frying, but Ina prefers the flavor of bacon drippings. Minced Chinese cabbage can be substituted for carrot. Vietnamese cooks use a variety of ingredients -- chicken or crab meat, tree ear fungus and assorted vegetables.
Scallion water lilies: Cut green stalks of 2 scallions 2 to 3 inches from white base. Leaving stalks attached to bulb, cut green part evenly into strips 1/16-inch wide. Float in ice water until ends begin to curl and crisp.
Ina Balin's Vietnamese Chicken
2 broiler-fryer chickens (2 1/2 to 3 pounds each)
1 tablespoon sesame oil (more if needed)
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon Chinese curry powder (or more to taste)
2 scallions, chopped
2 stalks lemon grass, finely minced
Juice of 1 large lime or lemon
Pinch of crushed dried red chiles (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce (salty fish sauce)
2 teaspoons Oriental dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
Garlic salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped roasted peanuts, scallions cut into 2-inch pieces, and thin slices of lime or lemon for garnish
Wash chicken. Dry on paper toweling. Cut into serving-size pieces.
Heat sesame oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, curry powder, scallions and lemon grass. Stir-fry 30 seconds. Rinse skillet by adding lime juice to pan; pour juice into small mixing bowl. Add crushed chiles, fish sauce, soy sauce, rosemary, garlic salt and pepper. Blend well.
Place chicken in shallow glass baking dish. Pour marinade over chicken pieces, turning to coat evenly. Cover tightly and marinate 6 to 8 hours in refrigerator. Place chicken on broiler pan lined with aluminum foil. Broil chicken 35 to 40 minutes, turning once to brown on both sides, until chicken is brown and fork-tender. Baste during broiling with drippings. Serve on warm platter, garnished with peanuts and scallions. Arrange lime slices around edge of platter. Makes 8 servings.
Note: Oriental ingredients are available at stores that sell Oriental foods. Use hotter curry powder if desired. Lemon grass, an aromatic, slightly tart herb (also available in powder form) can be grown indoors in a pot or outdoors during spring or summer.