Workplace Potluck for Lunch: Vietnamese Spring Rolls
The first known usasge of the word 'potluck' dates back to 16th Century England and was used to mean 'food provided for an unexpected or uninvited guest; the luck of the pot'. To the Irish, a potluck was a meal with no particular menu. Everyone participating brought a dish for all to share and it comes from a time when groups of Irish women would gather together and cook dinner in one big pot with whatever ingredients they happened to have that day.
There are a few variations on potluck such as the 'rota meal', where each participant takes turns providing food for the entire group. 'Safari Supper' is popular in the UK and South Africa and is not unlike the 'progressive dinner' of the US, where a group of neighbours physcially move between different houses or locations for each part of the meal. There's also a 'meal train' which is the process of organizing meal giving for one person with usually only one person making a meal each day. This organized meal giving usually happens because of some significant life event such as birth, adoption, surgery, illness, death, divorce, new job or moving to a new community and the meals are prepared by caring friends, family, co-workers, congregation members and communities to show either their excitement or compassion.
Typical offerings for a potluck would include different types of salads, dips, spreads, casseroles, chilli, meatballs or other 'one pot' dishes that can feed a crowd.
Yesterday, my oldest daughter, Kylie, asked me if I could possibly make something for her to take to her work today for a lunchtime potluck. Normally, I'd make a suggestion and point her in the direction of a recipe, but due to extenuating circumstances and time restraints, I was absolutely willing to help her out.
She told me some of the things her co-workers were bringing and I suggested we go with something a little lighter and healthier than the usual Potluck fare. We decided on Vietnamese Spring Rolls with two types of dips: a basic Nuoc Cham, or traditional Vietnamese dip for spring rolls, and a Peanut Sauce. The dipping sauces needed to be a balance of sour, sweet, salty and spicy with a bold, forward finish, a little stronger than I might normallyy have for a dipping sauce because the Vietnamese Spring Rolls are made of unsalted fresh vegetables and herbs.
Veitnames Spring Rolls are so easy to make, you'll wonder why you don't have them at least once a week! The first step is to have all of your ingredients all ready before you start to wrap and make sure you have a few extra rice paper wraps because it'll take a couple before you really get into the groove! (You can have the less than perfect looking ones for yourself as a reward for all of your effort!) When you're ready to wrap, soak one rice paper wrap at a time in a shallow dish of warm water for 5-10 seconds.
Place individual portions of each Nappa cabbage, carrot, cucumber, avocado, fresh basil, and sliced chicken or shrimp, if using, (I didn't use shrimp because my daughter has a shellfish allergy), near to the middle of the rice paper, roll up one end, fold up the sides, and then continue to roll up the rice paper roll.
Place a damp paper towel on a plate, place finished roll on plate and cover with another damp paper towel and continue making spring rolls, making sure to place each finished roll on damp paper towel so that they don't dry out. Keep rolls separate from each other as the wet rice paper wraps can be a little sticky. When you've finished making the rolls, cut them on the diagonal and place on a serving plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve with dipping sauces.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls are usually served uncooked for a cleaner, fresher taste and I just love the crunch of the raw vegetables. Given that there's no actual cooking involved, Vietnamese Spring Rolls are easy to make for lunch or when feeding a crowd! Inexpensive, easy, delicious and healthy.....just the way I like it!