Since kale grows so well in the Pacific Northwest, every year I experiment with growing a different varietal of kale. This summer I started growing Portuguese kale, and I couldn’t recommend growing it enough. Typically kale intimidates me, it’s tough, bitter, and hard to chew. Yeah, I could blend it in a smoothie, but in order to truly enjoy it in dishes it requires a lot of thought. But after growing portuguese kale, I’m much more hopeful about cooking with kale. ‘Tronchunda Beira’ is a beautiful round leaf that has all the integrity of other varietals of kale yet is more delicate. It’s lighter not just in texture, but in flavor as well, making it much more accessible.
Portuguese kale has been really fun to experiment with. I’ve learned that it’s perfect for soups- it holds it’s shape yet doesn’t get bitter as easily as other varietals. But I don’t want soup in the summer- so I’ve been experimenting with other ways to use Portuguese kale in the warmer months.
One of my favorite uses of Portuguese Kale in the summer is in Spring Rolls. It’s strong, yet easy to chew, and holds the other ingredients such as carrots and cucumbers so well. This cabbage-like leaf is by far the best lettuce I’ve used in spring rolls thus far.
Notes: In this recipe, I won’t be providing quantities except for the peanut sauce. There’s just no reason. The amount of ingredients you need will depend on how many spring rolls you want to make. Typically, I don’t cook enough protein and noodles, but have too much carrots and cucumbers. If I have a surplus of carrots and cucumbers, I’ll save it for a salad or bibimbap.
Spring Roll Ingredients
- Portuguese Kale
- Rice Paper Wrappers
- Tofu or shrimp
- Fill a large bowl with hot water. Add the vermicelli and let soak for 5 minutes. Some rice noodles will have different instructions, so follow accordingly. Then rinse well.
- Cook shrimp and tofu to your desired doneness. If you make tofu, cut it into 1″ wide, 1/2″ thick slices. Regardless of what cooking method you use, they should be as dried as possible, especially the tofu.
- Julienne the carrots and cucumbers into 3″ long strips.
- Wash kale leaves and cut the stems off.
- Rinse, dry, and remove mint from it’s stems.
- Set up your mise-en-place. This is important for every recipe, but if you’re new to making spring rolls, having everything out in front of you in one place will make it easier for you to assemble them. Otherwise, you might let the paper sit too long and rip or fall apart. I’d recommend placing the carrots, cucumbers, protein, and mint all on one plate. Kale leaves on a separate place. Vermicelli in a bowl. You’ll also want to have a plate or cutting board to assemble your rolls, a separate plate to place complete rolls, and a deep dish for the rice paper wrappers. Fill a large deep dish with water. This will be used for your rice paper wrappers.
- Once you have your mise-en-place set up, place a rice paper wrapper in the deep dish and make sure it’s full submerged in the water. Let it sit in water for 1-2 minutes, until it softens.
- Move rice paper wrapper to your cutting board. Lay it out flat. First, place 1-2 mint leaves approximately 1/3 into the wrapper. Place protein on top. Next, place a lettuce leaf right in the middle. Stack a few pieces of cucumbers and carrots in the center of the lettuce, and add noodles on top.
- Next, fold the side ends of the lettuce toward the center, and then the front and back on top.
- Then fold the side ends of the rice paper wrap toward the center, fold the bottom end to the center, and roll away from you.
There you go! You rolled a spring roll! It’s totally normal for the first few spring rolls to be quite messy. With practice, you’ll gain dexterity and rhythm and it will get a lot easier.