Spring Rolls

2 ounces thin rice vermicelli
8 uncooked medium shrimp
12 ounces boneless pork loin, in 1 piece
1 large carrot, shredded
1 teaspoon sugar
8 rounds rice paper (banh trang), each 8 1/2 inches in diameter
4 large leaves leaf lettuce with thick stem ends removed, cut in half crosswise
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
Green tops of 16 green onions, trimmed to 5-inch lengths (optional)
3/4 cup cilantro

Cover vermicelli with boiling water in pan, and soak 5 to 10 minutes. With chopsticks or fork, lift and separate strands to prevent clumping. Rinse well with cold water; drain thoroughly.

Boil shrimp for 3 minutes, refresh in cold water, then peel, devein, and cut in half lengthwise. Set aside. Braise pork in small amount of water for 10 to 15 minutes, refresh in cold water, and thinly slice into 1-by-2-inch pieces. In bowl, combine carrot and sugar; let stand for 10 minutes.

When assembling rolls, work with 2 sheets of rice paper at a time (cover remaining sheets with barely damp cloth to prevent curling). Immerse each sheet individually in warm water. Quickly remove and spread flat on dry towel, without letting sheets touch.

Lay lettuce piece over bottom third of sheet. On lettuce, place 1 tablespoon each of noodles and carrots and a few each of pork pieces, bean sprouts, and mint leaves. Roll up paper almost halfway to form a cylinder. Fold both edges about 1/2 inch over filling. Lay 2 shrimp halves, cut side down, along crease. Tuck 2 green onion sprigs under one end of each shrimp half, leaving about 1 inch extending over fold line. Place several pieces cilantro next to shrimp row. Keep rolling paper into cylinder to seal. Place on plate and cover with damp towel while filling remaining wrappers.

Peanut Sauce

1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chile paste (tuong ot tuoi)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup chicken broth or water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons nuoc mam, or to taste
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, ground
1 fresh red chile pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

Heat oil in small saucepan. Add garlic, chile paste, and tomato paste. Fry until garlic is golden brown, about 30 seconds. Add broth or water, sugar, peanut butter, and hoisin sauce. Whisk to dissolve peanut butter, reduce heat, and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and add nuoc mam.

Divide sauce among individual dipping bowls. Garnish with ground peanuts and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4

Domain is a supplement to the March 1990 issue of Texas Monthly.