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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pork (First Day of) Spring Rolls

I have a love/hate relationship with spring. I love all the things that spring is supposed to represent. You know things like warm weather, buds on the trees, tulips, daffodils, and fresh produce. Those kinds of things don't come to Fairbanks until May, that is if we are lucky! Here we have had temperatures hovering around zero and snow that just won't quit.We are blessed with more sunlight and lately some beautiful displays of northern lights at night. I have been grumbling for years that I have not seen northern lights in Alaska anywhere near to those I grew up with in Michigan. Two nights ago the Alaska sky finally showed me what she can do and produced an amazing and colorful display. Unfortunately, I was too in awe to get out the camera. By the time I had my fill and went inside to get the camera the show had concluded. It was more fun to watch anyway. On this first day of spring I will make my annual trek down the road to see if I can find the first pussy willow of the season. Seems that I can always find one every year. Although it will be months before we see fresh, local produce here in Fairbanks at least the stuff in the grocery store looks a little less wilted these days. Despite the cold weather I start craving fresh greens this time of year.
This was my very first time making spring rolls at home. I used to make regular deep-fried egg rolls often, but I also haven't done that in a long time either. In fact, doing a little research I found out that these fresh spring rolls aren't really spring rolls at all. They are actually supposed to be called summer rolls. Since I was so excited to share fresh spring rolls with you on the first day of spring, I say let's just go ahead and call them spring rolls like all the restaurants in Fairbanks do.The best part about these spring rolls was the marinated and grilled pork. I could have easily eaten it on its own or maybe in a stir fry. I can also see using the same method for tofu, in fact I am sure I will do that soon. One final tip, the package of wrappers I purchased said to put them in hot water before stuffing the eggrolls, I recommend using lukwarm water instead. The hot water caused them to stick together like mad. Other than that I found them to be pretty easy, although a bit time consuming with all that stuffing and rolling. The effort was worth it and a great way to celebrate the arrival of spring, or at least the thought of it.

Pork Spring Rolls
adapted from Macheesmo
makes about 8 spring rolls

Feel free to adapt this recipe to include ingredients you have on hand
1 pound boneless pork chops
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon hoison sauce
1 tablespoon hot chili pepper sauce such as Srirachi
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Spring Rolls:
rice papers
fresh thai basil leaves
fresh cilantro leaves
fresh mint leaves
mixed Greens, any large stems removed
1 red pepper, sliced very thin
1 carrot, grated

In a large gallon size ziploc bag combine all ingredients for pork. Let sit in refrigerator to marinade at least four hours, preferably overnight. Remove pork from marinade and grill over medium high heat until cooked through. I did this on a cast iron griddle indoors, but would be much easier on a grill outside. Depending on the thickness of your pork chops this could take anywhere from 12 - 20 minutes or more.  Let sit to cool for 5-10 minutes after grilling. Slice pork into thin strips.
Whisk together all ingredients for dipping sauce in a small bowl, set aside. 
Prepare rice papers according to package instructions, dipping in warm water. Place wet rice paper flat on a clean flour sack kitchen towel. Cover all but the outer one in of paper with a single layer of herbs and mixed greens to your taste, then place remaining portion of filling including sliced pork about 1/3 from bottom of paper. Fold bottom lip over fillings and tuck in the edges, continue to roll up the spring roll tightly. Repeat with remaining rolls and ingredients. You can cut your spring rolls in half or thirds if serving as an appetizer or leave whole if eating as a meal. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.


  1. Hi Nicole- Your pictures are gorgeous, and this post is no exception! Can you tell me what camera you use?

    1. Heidi-
      Thank you for your kind words. The camera I use is the Canon S90, it is a high end point and shoot with manual options. The best advice I can give is to learn to use the camera you have. For a long time I used the Canon A4000, which I believe retails for $19.99 at Wal-Mart these days. I managed to get some shots accepted to FoodGawker and Tastespotting using that camera.
      I took two photo workshops last year, one primarily to learn what all the buttons were on my camera and the second to learn more about lighting and set up. They were both invaluable. After taking those workshops I no longer use the auto mode on my camera. It makes a huge difference. The things that I find most important are using natural light and setting my white balance correctly. If you can get those two things it is half the battle. Finally, practice and then practice some more. Take pictures of your groceries and every meal you eat even if you are not blogging about it. Look at early posts from any honest food blogger and you will see that everyone pretty much started in the same place. I always tell people to check out this post from Canelle et Vanille:
      Then look at her posts today.
      It can still be pretty challenging though, as you know the lighting here in Alaska can be hard to work with.
      Good luck!

  2. I love your pictures and recipes, they are mouth watering. Would love for you to share them with us at We are new but at we are not photography snobs, we are just foodies.


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