Ever since the birth of our first-born nearly 7 years ago, we have learned to love leftovers. As new parents, having enough for another meal without shopping, cooking or cleaning was an unimaginable luxury–doubly so now that we have two children to wrangle every evening. And with a little creativity, some leftovers can be reframed in delightful ways. Take the vermicelli with beef and lemongrass from a few nights ago, with the addition of rice paper and some hot water, the meal-in-a-bowl becomes delicate salad rolls.
I am not particular about the brand of rice paper, though my mother swears by the Rose Brand. In any case, wet both sides of a sheet thoroughly with hot water–either by dipping in a bowl or holding under the faucet for a few seconds. Place the sheet of rice paper on a plate; it will soften in about a minute. Add lettuce/cuke/herbs, noodles, beef, scallion oil, and fried shallots. Be careful not to use too much filling and keep everything towards one side of the sheet. Roll tightly (think cigar rather than burrito) taking care not to break the rice paper. Repeat. Keep rolls moist under a damp paper towel or dish cloth. Eat rolls immediately, dipping in nuoc cham.
This will work with nearly any kind of leftover–from stir fry to roasted meats. I like to use the vermicelli noodles, but there are no rules against other kinds of noodles or even rice! Just make sure that you balance out soft textures with some chewiness (beef, shrimp, etc.), crunchiness (lettuce, cuke), and herbiness (mint, thai basil, cilantro). And of course, nuoc cham is a must.
Don’t forget the nights when you’re wrangling 4 children!