Spicy! Saucy! Full of flavor! Veggies! Thai! What’s not to love?!??!?
A paupiette is a French term used for minced meat thats been rolled into long cylindrical shapes and wrapped with thinly sliced meat. For example, one of the recipes we learnt at Le Cordon Bleu was minced pork and veal wrapped inside thinly sliced veal. The roll is then seared and braised.
I immediately thought that a Thai version of this French dish would be simply amazing! I also wanted to make something that my mom could enjoy so I decided to try a vegetarian take on it. It’s an added bonus that it turned out to be vegan! I’m going to definitely try this out with chicken and pork in the future so stay tuned!
The main components of the dish are the delicious cigar rolls, something juicy to wrap the cigar rolls, and a dope sauce or curry to pour over the entire ensemble.
We start with making our own Thai curry paste! People are usually so afraid of attempting this but really it’s pretty easy. You can mess with the ratios of ingredients once you get the hang of it. Want more spice? Want more garlic? It’s all up to you!
For now, all we have to do is grind all the ingredients together into a paste and you’re done! One thing to note for this recipe is that I kept the paste simple as we’ll be using it for both the veggie rolls as well as the curry. This is so that I can build on the flavors separately and they won’t taste the same.
For the rolls, I went with an assortment of veggies. Really you can just use whatever you like as long as you chop them up really fine. For a binding agent I suggest mashed potatoes. You need something to hold the rolls together and bit of potato does a fine job. Remember to steam the potatoes first so you have a rough mash ready.
You want to fry just half the paste in some oil first before adding all your veggies (save the rest for the curry). Don’t add the potatoes yet. Give it a good sweat down and make sure you incorporate the paste well into the mix and get rid of any clumps. You can add a bit of minced garlic if you like as well! Remember there’s garlic in the paste already so don’t add too much. You also don’t want mush so keep some bite in the veggies. Season with salt.
Once the veggies have been cooked, add the mashed potatoes and mix it well. Season. Add a touch of lime juice to give it that much need acidic kick. When you’re happy with the taste, set the pan aside to cool before making the rolls.
The curry is super simple. Fry the paste in oil again. Add green peppercorns and then pour in all the coconut milk. Throw in crushed kaffir lime leaves (yummmmmmmmmm), crushed lemongrass stalks, and a slit bird chili or two if you want to spice it up. Season with a bit of salt now, remember it will reduce and strengthen all flavors so don’t add too much salt now. Add a touch of cumin powder and coriander seed powder along with crushed white peppercorns. Let this simmer for around 15-20 minutes with a closed lid so all the beautiful flavors are brought out. After it’s cooked, remove it from the heat and add in all your Thai basil and let it sit while you finish up the rest of your dish so that it has some time to impart the flavor. Do not add the basil while it’s still on the heat, otherwise the basil will darken and lose its color.
Prep the rolls. You can roll it any way you prefer. I find it easy to use cling wrap to tightly pack the roll and get a nice cylindrical shape.
Now you have two options. You can either dust the roll with flour and bread crumbs and deep fry it, or you can simply pan sear it. I went for the pan seared option but deep frying will definitely also be amazing with a nice added crunch!
Keep the heat low in the pan and give it a good sear on all sides. Set aside.
Now get your eggplant ready. All you need is a saucepan with butter, water, and salt. Poaching your eggplant slices like this make them super juicy and tender. It’s the perfect way to cook it for this dish in my opinion. How do I know? Because of The Great Eggplant Trials of course!
Wrap the eggplants around the rolls and place them in a dish. If you have extra rolls, just place them in the dish without the eggplant. Remove the lemongrass stalks from the curry and pour it into the dish. Garnish with some more Thai basil if you want. Serve with rice or noodles.
My mom and I weren’t quite sure what the best way to tenderize the eggplant would be so that we can wrap it around the veggie roll. It definitely needed to be cooked fully so that it was nice and soft. Also there was no real way to cook it further anyway.
We tried baking it first at 180ºC for 10-15 minutes. That gave it a dark color and it wasn’t completely cooked either. It was proving to take too long. Additionally it was pretty dry and flavorless.
We then tried pan frying. This wasn’t great either. It cooked unevenly, and darkened a lot. The edges of the skin would crisp up unintentionally. It also didn’t taste great even with seasoning. It was weirdly dry and oily at the same time.
We then tried deep frying it. This was actually not too bad. It had a nice golden color and was pretty tender. The only issue again was the crisping up of the skin. And of course the oiliness.
Then I had a brainwave. In school, nearly all veggies for garnish were prepared with a butter-water mix. I immediately knew this was it. We brought water and butter to a simmer in a saucepan and poached the eggplant slices in it. It beautifully retained its color and burst with juiciness when I bit into it. They were super tender and the skin cut easily as well. A clear winner in our blind taste test! You can easily substitute butter with any vegan butter of your choice because a touch of fat is all that you need!
I definitely want to try deep frying the rolls with panko to add another texture to this dish. I also want to amp up the spice level in the rolls a touch and lower the amount of potatoes to try and bring out the flavor of the veggies even more. The recipe below reflects the changes I want to make as well!
I think it’s a great idea to incorporate a vegan meal or two into your weekly meal planning. It’s a great way to discover new ingredients and techniques of creating flavor! You also do your part in reducing unnecessary red meat consumption and stay a bit healthier!
1 bell pepper any color
1 inch garlic
1.5 cups Thai basil