Spring-Fresh Salad Rolls

Each month we celebrate Fernie’s amazing food scene by challenging a local pro to create a five-ingredient recipe with delicious–and revealing–results.

Sydney Salvador’s Salad Rolls
• Rice paper
• Spring mix lettuce
• Shrimp
• Cucumbers
• Rice noodles

Fernie locals know spring has really sprung when the Chopstick Truck appears. As soon as the snow melts (usually mid-April), the bright green food truck, co-owned by Sydney Salvador and her sister, Taylor Salvador, becomes a popular attraction at the corner of Highway 3 and McLeod in West Fernie. Offering Vietnamese street food, from wraps and noodle bowls to Banh Mi and Bubble Tea, the sisters’ menu focuses on good-to-go food vibrant with fresh flavours.

One of the most popular items, Salad Rolls, has been on the menu “since day one,” Sydney said. “They’ve been a staple. It’s something that everyone can eat. They [can be] gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, keto-friendly. They’re very healthy. Kids love them!” And no chopsticks required. “Just pick it up, dip it, eat it,” she said.

But there’s another reason everyone from brides planning their wedding reception to local cops swinging by on their way to work are placing multiple orders. They’re the ultimate customizable snack food. “We’ll play around a lot [with the recipe]. We’ll put in slaws, our sweet sauce, different meat options, different veggies,” she said. She grows herbs–basils, mint, cilantro–in pots outside the truck for the rolls as well.

But before we get too carried away, let’s start with her basic recipe. First, explained Sydney, boil the rice noodles and rinse in cold water so noodles won’t stick. Quickly boil the shrimp (adding a little salt if you like), drain them, remove their shells and tails and then butterfly them, slicing through the back of each and fanning the sides out. Prep your vegetables, cutting the cucumbers into matchsticks.

To prep the rice paper you’ll need a large, low bowl. “The key is to use lukewarm water–not cold water,” Sydney pointed out. Take each piece and fully submerge it in the water. Then carefully place the wet paper flat on a cutting board.

Sydney builds her filling with lettuce first, followed by some noodles and cucumber, placing all in a horizontal row in the centre of the rice paper leaving a couple of inches of paper on either end for folding. Take the right and left sides of the paper and fold inwards. Then take the portion of the paper nearest you and pull it up and over the noodles and veggies.

Now add the shrimp, splayed flat and pink side up, along the top of the partially wrapped roll. Then carefully roll the roll away from you, sealing it with the remaining top third of the rice paper.

Once you’ve mastered the basic roll, get creative. “We’ve done them with our Honey Grilled Pork, our Lemongrass Beef,” said Sydney, as well as chicken and tofu. Take advantage of rice paper’s translucency to add fun colours, too. She suggested edible flowers, for instance. Fillings between layers of rice paper, Sydney advised, also prevents that chewiness from too many unseparated layers.

And then there are the sauces. One of Sydney’s good friends came up with this epic combo: Noodles, lettuce, cucumbers, Honey Grilled Pork, spicy mayo and hoisin sauce. “It’s sooo good!” declared Sydney. She also suggested Sambal Oelek (garlic chili sauce), Sriracha, peanut sauce, and sweet Thai chili sauce for fillings or dipping.

So what are you waiting for? Get rolling!

Sydney Salvador, co-owner of The Chopstick Truck, in action. Photo by Steve Reed.

Salvador’s Salad Rolls, served with hoisin, Siracha and Sambal Oelek sauces, is the ultimate in customisable snacks. Submitted photo.