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Deconstructed rice paper rolls - can you replicate a recipe?

Author: Hung Tran, Last Update on : 09 Sep 2020

When we eat Vietnamese rice paper rolls, we can easily see a special characteristic of this cuisine, the deconstructed rice paper rolls. Especially if the rolls follow the simplicity of many authentic recipes.
Does a commercial kitchen or a home kitchen have secret recipes or family-heritage recipes?

Deconstructed rice paper rolls ingredients:

In many recipes, ingredients to make rice paper rolls are not mixed or cooked together in advance. We make the rolls by arranging individual ingredients on a rice paper wrapper, fold and roll it.

If you buy a rice paper roll from a shop and like it, you have a big chance to replicate it. When you unwrap a roll, what you see in it are what you will prepare to make the same roll. Sometimes, your DIY rolls are better since you make them more freshly with your local seasonal ingredients. We just assume that you make the rolls and eat them right away.

Having said that, what is the secret of the shop?
When you have the same ingredients, why cannot you create the same flavour?

Well, there is no big secret behind it. It's just simply the way you arrange ingredients for each bite. This arrangement makes a difference in each roll, and even in each bite of the same roll. Here we do not discuss a cooked protein with a secret sauce or complicated cooking procedures. That's another level of rice paper rolls recipes.

So if you unwrap a roll, and copy exactly the same position of each ingredient in the roll, you might achieve 90% of the same taste and flavour.
Where is the rest 10% difference? It stays in the fresh ingredients and cooked ingredients. Two carrots from the same patch in the same garden still might have different taste and texture. The prawn you cook in the morning might be different from the one you cook in the evening although they are from the same pack you have bought. And this is the beauty of the hand-made food.

You can see a short video here for the deconsructed rice paper roll example.

Deconstructed sauce:

You might think that a dipping sauce is often pre-made and it's hard to replicate. It's right. Different restaurants serve different dipping sauces. The sauce might be a secret one to make a customer come back to that restaurant.
However, dipping sauce in Vietnamese food has a deconstructed character. Many Vietnamese families serve the dipping sauce in the way that each member might add a flavour or two into a base sauce, such as fish sauce.

Many resorts in Vietnam when they serve food in the buffet, they let the guests create the dipping sauce by themselves. Look at the headline photo that I took at the HoiAn Furama resort in January 2020. Over 16 ingredients to make dipping sauce are on a table for the eaters to DIY design and make a dipping sauce.

If you visit our recipes you will see that we present them in the deconstructed style. The ingredients are on a plate so that the whole family could share and make their own version of rice paper rolls.