In spite of the coldest spring I remember, mizuna has been growing like crazy on my balcony. I have sown this delicious Japanese plant for the first time and am thrilled to see it adapts so easily to a different climate. Actually, it grows with such a speed, I have already harvested several handfuls in recent weeks. The only, very simple way I knew to enjoy mizuna was to make it into a green salad or mix with other leaves, but these spring rolls were well worth the small additional effort.
Mizuna (水菜) is one of the most popular Japanese leaf vegetables, used both raw and briefly cooked. Its long, thin fringed leaves are in a certain way similar to rocket (aka arugula) or dandelion, but they have a much more delicate taste, with a subtle peppery note (the younger the more delicate they are of course). Until now I have been using it only in salads, but given its growth easiness, I will certainly have many occasions to experiment.
These fresh spring rolls (also known as summer rolls) are very similar to those I posted here (with surimi, avocado and lettuce) and are a nice alternative to a salad starter, appetiser or a lighter replacement of a sandwich, for example at a picnic. I have always associated uncooked rice paper rolls with Vietnamese cuisine, but I have recently learnt they are also known in Japan as “harumaki” (春巻き), though I think mizuna is not their usual ingredient. In my opinion the extremely versatile rice paper can be filled with practically everything one likes, as long as it’s not leaking, and mizuna has been an interesting change.
You can serve these rolls with a mixture of soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar, but they were particularly good with this sesame paste dressing treated as a dip.
TIPS: If you add transparent (glass) noodles, these rolls will be more filling (in this case cut down the carrot and mizuna amounts).
Preparation: 15-20 minutes
Ingredients (8 rolls):
8 (22 cm or 8 3/4 in diameter) rice paper sheets
2 big handfuls of mizuna leaves
2 big carrots
1 big baked, grilled, boiled or steamed chicken breast
(chili paste or sauce)
Julienne the carrots.
Cut the mizuna leaves in two.
Cut the chicken breast in two horizontally and then into thin strips.
Fill a big wide bowl with warm (not hot) water.
Divide the mizuna, the chicken breast, the carrot (and the mint if you use it) into ten equal portions.
Dip rice paper sheets one by one in the water, immersing them delicately so that you don’t break them.
As soon as the sheet softens (after about ten – twenty seconds), put it onto a big chopping board.
Place first 2/3 of 1 portion of mizuna leaves in the middle, horizontally (at the edge which is closest to you) julienned carrot, a piece of chicken breast, mayonnaise, (chili paste and mint leaves if you choose to do so), cover with the remaining 1/3 of mizuna’s portion. You should aim at approximately 9cm/3,5 in long roll.
Roll tightly starting from the edge which is closest to you.
Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.
Serve them immediately as they are or cut in two horizontally with the sesame paste dressing/dip or with a mixture of soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar.
If you wish to serve them later, wrap them individually in cling film because they dry out very quickly.