Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Teal

If Vietnamese cuisine had a "fad" food, it would probably be spring rolls. But it's a fad that never seems to go away. Take a stroll down Little Saigon in Orange County, Calif. and you'll see spring rolls served in all kinds of restaurants. To Vietnamese people, spring rolls are as everyday as hamburgers are to Americans.
Every restaurant has its own secrets. Every family-owned business has its own special version. Here, we offer you a basic Vietnamese spring roll recipe, but filled with wild duck! Usually, spring rolls are made with ground pork or shrimp. But the concept allows for all kinds of filling combinations. It's kind of like a burrito, except more dainty and light (and healthy). Filled with fresh lettuce, crunchy cucumber and bright mint, spring rolls are perfect on a hot summer's day. We were quite happy with the way our spring rolls turned out. The grilled wild duck was tender and lent itself well to this dish. It's different, but worth a try. 

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 5-10 minutes
-  breasts from 4 wild ducks, so 8 (teal tastes best)
- 3 tbs. bbq sauce
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 lb. medium fresh shrimp
- 1 large cucumber, or 2 Persian cucumbers (seeded and julienne) 
- 1 head of iceberg lettuce
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- Chinese chives
- 2 cups of cooked rice vermicelli
- 8 spring roll wrappers
Peanut Dipping Sauce
- 1 tbs. peanut oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, finely ground
- 1 tsp. chili garlic sauce, or to taste
-  3/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 1/2 tbs. peanut butter
- 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp. crushed peanuts, for garnish 

This is what uncooked rice vermicelli looks like. It doesn't matter which brand you buy. There are thicker and thinner strands available. For spring rolls, we prefer thinner noodles. 
You will not need to cook the entire package for this recipe. We cooked only a quarter of the package, following the directions on the back. We suggest preparing the vermicelli at least an hour before assembling spring rolls. Unlike spaghetti, rice noodles take some time to air dry and to lose their slimy texture after being cooked. 
1. To make the peanut sauce, heat 1 tbs. of peanut oil in a small saucepan. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook until golden brown. Drain and discard oil.
2. In a bowl, whisk together fried garlic, 1/2 cup of ground peanuts, 1 tsp. chili garlic sauce, 3/4 cup of chicken broth, 1-1/2 tbs. peanut butter...
1/3 cup of hoisin sauce, 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tsp. of fish sauce. When mixture is smooth, pour it into the saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then simmer until thickened. Stir occasionally. Set aside to cool. Garnish with crushed peanuts.
3.  Prepare grill for direct heat cooking.

Remove as much silver skin as you can off duck breasts. 
Slice breasts thinly against the grain, on the bias. Look for shot. Mix in 3 tbs. of bbq sauce of your choice and 1 tbs. of olive oil. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside. 
4. De-head and devein shrimp. You can grill the shrimp peeled or unpeeled. 
5. If you don't have a basket for the grill, you can always cook the duck in a pan. But grilling gives the duck a smoky flavor. 

Grill duck until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Turn occasionally.  Do not overcook.
Grill shrimp for 2 minutes on each side, or until cooked through and pink all over. Do not overcook.  
Peel shrimp, if you haven't already. Cut them in half along the length of their bodies, so that you have two halves for each shrimp. 
6. Prepare your veggies for assembly.  You can choose to cut lettuce into smaller pieces, or shred them. If you use regular cucumbers, peel them. No need to peel Persian cucumbers. 
7. To assemble, fill a large bowl with warm water. Grab a spring roll wrapper. 
Dip it into the water to wet all sides. No need to soak. Lay flat on a clean surface. 
If you get spring roll wrappers at an Asian market, they often come in packages that look like this. I've also seen them stored in clear plastic bags. They come in a variety of sizes, but try to get the bigger kind. 
8. Once the wrapper becomes pliable, lay some lettuce towards the bottom part of the wrapper, leaving enough space at the sides to fold over later. 
Then add some vermicelli...
Cucumber and mint leaves.  
Then add some duck pieces. Fold the sides over tightly and beginning to roll from the bottom. Lay down a piece of Chinese chive and roll over it. 
Continue rolling tightly. When you get halfway, place 3 pieces of shrimp with the pretty side down and roll over that.  
Voila! Rolls should be about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
Even a white boy can do it!  :-)
Serve rolls with the peanut sauce for dipping. Enjoy! 

* * *

Since Rick shares a lot about his family with you, it's my turn! Below are a few photos I took from my trip back to Vietnam. I took this trip with my family in the summer of 2008. For those who don't know, I was born in Vietnam. I came to the United States when I was 2 years old. Even though I was born there, I can't say I remember much. Everything seemed so new and strange, yet there still was a feeling of the old and the familiar. Looking back, I am extremely thankful for that trip. I saw family that I didn't know I had. I saw places where I was told I had been, even though I held no recollections. That trip was a great chance for me to reconcile old ties and to form new ones. It was good to go back and see the place where I was born. I walked by the hospital of my birth almost everyday for three weeks. No doubt, a lot has changed. 

The ladies of the house cooking for a big family feast. This was my mom's side of the family. 
We had tons of chickens roaming the yard. 

They're not pets. 
Probably my favorite photo of Vietnam. It just kind of sums up everything. If you look at a map, you can see that much of Vietnam is touched by coastline. It's no wonder that the ocean is such an integral part of the country's economy and way of life. Yeah, there's commercial fishing. But many families in Vietnam still fish to feed their families or to make a little money in local markets. 
Went for a boat ride with my brother and cousin. I saw this man fishing with his make-shift boat and sail. People make do with what they have there. 
People raise crocodiles for meat in Vietnam. I ate a lot of different things there. Ostrich, frog legs, pigeon... 

I also had shark fin soup. I didn't see what the big deal was. Tasted like chicken broth. As far as I could tell, it was a waste of a good fish. 
 An old photo from a family album. One of my uncles. I don't know why we kept a deer, but we did. Doesn't make sense, because my grandfather hunted them too. My mom told me that they once kept a tiger in the back. It was a gift. My grandparents finally had to give it to the zoo.

 Well, thanks for checking out our recipe and our photos! If you haven't already been to our Facebook page, please do. We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions.