My daughter turned five years old yesterday, and what a celebration it was. She had presents from her Grandparents in the morning , singing and candle blowing with a fake cake at school in the afternoon, then dinner with real cake and more presents in the evening. Tomorrow she has another birthday bash (to which we seem to have invited over seventy guests) and still more presents arriving in the mail from her other Grandmother.
She takes it all in good stride, though, with this year being the first in which she understood the concept of time well enough to actually count down the days to her birthday, and tell me "I'm really going to be five tomorrow!" the day before. This year's cake came from Miette, of course, and tomorrow's big party cake is coming from (urp) Safeway (did you know they have a blog too?). There is only so much I can do when my daughter demands that a princess be painted on the top.
In addition to being overpowered in my choice of cake, I had no say in the dinner menu either. My three year old son has been begging me to bring home a whole (preferably live) fish ever since we visited our local massive Asian market, Sunset Super, and wouldn't let me leave Whole Foods yesterday without buying a crab. Luckily, I managed to get away with an already dead one, recently cooked, cleaned and cracked. Phew.
Together we pulled its meat from the shell at home. When he tired of that, my son coated the kitchen floor with dirt and then hurled pot shards three stories down from our deck, while I boiled up some noodles, grated carrots, picked mint leaves and rolled it all up in rice paper. Or whatever you call that impossibly thin edible wrapping material. My little crab packages didn't come out quite as nicely as the ones served at Dragonfly Restaurant around the corner, but with a little practice I'm sure my skills will improve.
Of course neither of my children at the crab rolls - that was left to my husband and me. Instead they dined on cream cheese sandwiches, carrots and plums. And for dessert, cake.
Crab Rolls: (adapted from Jay Harlow's West Coast Seafood)
4 oz rice sticks (aka rice noodles)
24 small rice paper rounds (I used full ones, and only about 12 or so)
1 smallish crab, cooked, chilled and picked (about 1/3-1/2 pound meat)
1/4 cup shredded green onion or garlic chives
1/3 cup mint and/or cilantro leaves
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced into thin strips 2-3 inches long
1/2 cup shredded carrot
Nuoc Cham sauce for dipping (see recipe below)
Cook the rice sticks in boiling water until soft, then drain them in a colander in the sink and rinse with cold water. Cut into 1 inch long lengths.
The easiest way I've found to rehydrate the rice paper (it is sold dry) is to layer them between damp kitchen towels. Let them sit this way for 5-10 minutes, then flip the stack over so that you start with the rice paper layered first. They are very delicate, and once they have stuck together, nearly impossible to unstick, so be careful. They can stay layered in dishtowels for an hour or more.
For each roll, lay out a sheet of softened rice paper and put a Tablespoon or so of rice sticks in the middle. Add a piece of cucumber, some carrots, chives, mint and crab, then fold the two opposite sides and roll it up into a neat little bundle. If the rice paper tears, you can always take another sheet and double wrap the roll to hold everything together.
Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce):
1 clove garlic
1 small red or green chile
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar or lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons hot water, or to taste
Finely mince the garlic and chile, or pound them together in a mortar. In a small bowl, combine the chile-garlic mixture with the fish sauce, lime juice (or vinegar), sugar and hot water.Stir it up, then taste to see if it needs further thinning with water. Its pretty strong stuff, so taste with caution. Set it out in a bowl for dipping the rolls into.