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But, all these years later, the West Scranton resident is still preparing many of the dishes she learned to make as a young girl growing up in the Southeast Asian country.
Some have become especially popular among her family and friends, like her Laotian Egg Rolls, the winning entry in this week’s Local Flavor: Recipes We Love contest. Mrs. Bouttavong received a $100 gift certificate from Rossi’s ShurSave Market in Old Forge.
Like a lot of things that are made from scratch, the Egg Rolls are a bit on the time-consuming side. So, Mrs. Bouttavong only makes them every so often, and always in bulk.
“Sometimes, I make two or three hundred,” she said. “I make them for special occasions, birthday parties, weddings. Sometimes people at work ask me.”
For instance, her boss asked her to make them for a Fourth of July party he was throwing. They were a huge hit, even with her boss’s wife, who had never been a fan of egg rolls.
“She really liked them,” Mrs. Bouttavong said.
To start off, she soaks some rice noodles in warm water for 20 minutes, then cooks them in boiling water for two to three minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl she mixes chopped shrimp or ground pork with finely shredded carrots, Napa cabbage, onions and potatoes, along with eggs. Then to that she adds salt, sugar and black pepper, then the rice noodles.
After everything has mixed together really well, she lets it sit for 10 minutes. From there, she spoons the mixture on spring roll shells, then neatly folds them up.
Once all the spring rolls are filled and rolled, they go into a deep fryer, where they cook for 10 to 12 minutes in oil (Mrs. Bouttavong prefers corn oil) heated to 350 degrees F. When they’re done, they should have a tantalizing golden-brown sheen.
“You need to do them in a deep fryer,” Mrs. Bouttavong said. “It cooks everything evenly in the shell.”
Mrs. Bouttavong always serves the Egg Rolls with a spicy dipping sauce made with chiles, lime juice, garlic and fish sauce.
The Egg Rolls freeze well. It’s best to reheat them in the oven or toaster oven, because they’ll lose their crunchiness in the microwave, Mrs. Bouttavong said.
On a recent afternoon, she made a typically enormous batch, half with pork and half with shrimp. Both versions were phenomenal. The filling had loads of flavor, the shell was perfectly crisp, and the hot sauce was a terrific complement. Eating 10 in a single sitting was an easy task.
Mrs. Bouttavong was about 8 years old when she first learned to cook at her home in the Laotian capital of Vientiane. By the time she and her family arrived in the United States in 1979, she had acquired an extensive array of great recipes, from papaya salad to fried rice to a whole bunch of seafood dishes, which she usually serves with sticky rice and some type of hot sauce.
She also makes large dumplings she stuffs with egg and, in an untraditional twist, Italian hot sausage. From time to time, she does the Egg Rolls that way, too. You could call it a Northeast Pennsylvania take on a Laotian classic.
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Champy Bouttavong’s Laotian Egg Rolls
- 1 pound uncooked chopped shrimp or ground pork
- 2 to 3 medium carrots
- 1/2 head Napa cabbage
- 3 medium onions
- 3 small white potatoes
- 3 packs from 10.56-ounce eight-pack Goldensmell vermicelli rice noodles
- 1 25-pack Wei-Chaun spring roll shells
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Soak rice noodles in warm water for 20 minutes, then cook in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain.
In a large bowl, add chopped shrimp or ground pork. After finely shredding the carrots, cabbage, onions and potatoes, add to bowl, along with eggs. Add seasonings and noodles, then mix together well. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Spoon mixture on spring roll shells and fold according to spring roll package directions.
Fill deep fryer halfway with corn oil and heat to 350 degrees F. Fry egg rolls for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Winestein says
Riesling may be the best choice for southeast Asian food. Go with semi-dry if the food is spicy.