Well, I know it’s blindingly obvious. I mean, Vietnamese cold rolls are a brilliant lunchbox solution. They’re compact, easy to manage, nutritious and tasty. But geez, they take a bit of effort in preparation and rolling. And who’s got that kind of time in the mornings? I sure don’t.
So I’ve avoided cold rolls ever since I started this blog.
But recently, my daughter’s class had a cultural shared lunch at her school. It was a great idea, especially because there are around 70 different nationalities represented in the student body. No one is likely to be teased for the weird food in their lunchbox (remember that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding?), because there would be such a huge variety of lunchbox fare amongst all of those cultures.
Anyway, this left me in a bit of a bind – I had no way of knowing whether any of the shared food would be gluten-free and even if it was, there would be no vouching for its preparation or the possibility of cross-contamination. So I sent my daughter with her own lunchbox full of food from different countries. There was pizza (Italy), potato tortillas (Spain – recipe in my eCookbook), gluten-free Anzac biscuits and lamingtons (Australia) and, finally, cold rolls.
I made the rolls the night before with grated carrot, cucumber, some vermicelli noodles and some cold cooked chicken breast. All my kids got cold rolls in their lunchboxes the next day, and it took ages to prepare the ingredients and roll them. But it was worth it, because all 3 kids loved them and there were no leftovers.
So it got me thinking. There must be a quicker way to prepare them so that they can make more frequent appearances in the lunchboxes. Then I had this idea.
Make the chicken dish for the evening meal the night before. It’s fairly simple – lean chicken mince, grated veggies and vermicelli noodles that have been soaked and softened. Set some aside and when the kids are finally in bed, use it to make your cold rolls. Add some iceberg lettuce for a bit of crunch and there you have it! Lunch with a fraction of the preparation.
It will still take a bit more time to prepare these rolls, but they are brilliant for carbohydrates, protein and fibre. All bases covered. And if your kids are like mine, they will love them.
I’ve used this combination of chicken, vegetables and sauce before for my Chicken Rice Balls recipe which you’ll find in my eCookbook. It’s even quicker and simpler than the cold rolls and again uses the leftovers from the evening meal.
10 small sheets rice paper
1 cup Chicken and Vegetable Noodles (see recipe below) at room temperature
30 g shredded iceberg lettuce
Gluten-free Vietnamese dipping sauce (optional)
Put a sheet of rice paper into a large bowl of hot water for about 10 seconds (time will vary depending on the temperature of the water). Remove when rice paper has softened.
Spread rice paper on a clean, dry tea towel and then turn the rice paper over and spread it out on the tea towel again to remove excess water.
In the centre of the paper, place a few strands of the lettuce and approximately 2 tsp of the Chicken and Vegetable Noodles. Fold two opposite sides of the paper towards each other so that they cover the noodle mix. Starting from one of the remaining open ends, roll up into a firm parcel.
Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Serve in lunchboxes or on a platter with Vietnamese dipping sauce (optional).
Makes approximately 10 rolls.
Chicken and Vegetable Noodles
2 tsp oil
500 g lean chicken mince
1 onion, peeled, trimmed and finely diced
2 large carrots, peeled and trimmed
1 large zucchini, trimmed
100 g mushrooms
2 tbs gluten-free soy sauce
125 g vermicelli rice noodles
Heat wok or large frypan on high heat. Add oil and then add chicken mince and onion.
Cook for approximately 10 minutes, until onion is translucent and chicken is almost cooked through. Stir as you go, breaking up the chicken into small chunks.
In the meantime, grate the carrots, zucchini and mushrooms. Add them to the chicken mix. Stir.
Soak the noodles in a large bowl of boiling water for 5 minutes or until soft. Drain thoroughly. Using kitchen scissors, snip noodles into short strands.
Once the vegetables have softened a little, add soy sauce and noodles. Stir to combine. Cook for a further two minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked through.
Reserve 1 cup of mixture for cold rolls.
Serves 4-5 people.