Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fresh Rice Paper Express (Canon S90)

The large tour bus bounced down the rural road outside Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Since the driver rarely followed the posted speed limit and drove more slowly than allowed by law, the journey allowed exceptional vistas of the lush overgrowth in the areas surrounding Ho Chi Minh City. The bus slowed, pulled onto a gravel road, and took us to a hut used by a family selling souvenirs and freshly made rice paper. Many have eaten Vietnamese spring rolls filled with tender vegetables highlighted by the crunchy rice paper exterior, but few have seen the paper made by hand. The lady making the rice paper quickly crafted it in "easy" 4 steps. First she dipped what looked like half of a ping pong ball on a stick into the rice slurry and scooped just enough into a spreader. The spreader was then used to pour the slurry and spread it in a circular formation onto a cloth tray used for steaming. Perfect distribution is key because the mixture began cooking instantly, and after covering for 10 seconds, the rice paper was done. Then the lady used a long stick to remove the rice paper and place it on bamboo cooling racks (shown above). No one step sounds all that difficult, but it is the precision that makes each step in the process a hindrance. Without perfect distribution and timing, the rice paper would be ruined. By the way, this all took place in an dark hut!

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