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Twice as rice: there is rice paper, and then there is rice paper.

Tetrapanax papyriferum is the Latin name of a shrub native to Southern China and Taiwan that is commonly known as the rice paper tree. For centuries, the pith of T. papyriferum has been used to make Chinese rice paper that is then fashioned into decorative hairpins and artificial flowers. It is also a valued canvas for watercolor painting, as its high absorbency results in a dramatic raised-relief effect when the paint is applied. The pollen of T. papyriferum is said to make an effective anti-inflammatory, and the stems have a sedative effect. However, despite some sources' claims to the contrary, the paper itself is not meant to be consumed.

Vietnamese rice paper, on the other hand, is made for the express purpose of consumption. To make Vietnamese rice paper, or banh trang, one grinds rice that has been soaked in water, then combines it with a bit of salt and a bit of the remaining batter from the previous batch--this addition gives the paper its characteristic tangy flavor. The mixture is thinned with water to form a slurry, which is then steamed before being left on a large bamboo mat to dry in the sun. The next time you have the chance to handle a sheet of dried rice paper straight from the package, look carefully at the surface--that basket-weave pattern comes directly from the bamboo drying surface.

According to author Andrea Nguyen, many banh trang manufacturers have begun to supplement rice flour with tapioca starch, which creates a lighter and more shelf-stable product that suffers less breakage in transit from manufacturing site to market. Rehydrated, tapioca-supplemented papers behave differently from those made from 100% rice flour, which require a hot water bath to become fully pliable. When introduced to hot water, says Nguyen on her excellent Viet World Kitchen website, papers containing tapioca starch "shrivel up like plastic wrap that's been exposed to a hot flame!" Additionally, many cooks report that papers containing tapioca starch are much more prone to tearing once they've been rehydrated.

On the following pages, chef Patricia Yeo puts her signature world-cuisine spin on some classic banh trang preparations, and Wayne Nish introduces a French variation, the very first of its kind to be made outside Southeast Asia.

Wayne Nish



I'd like to see more secondary cuts and offal used. I'd like to see the overuse of tuna, snapper, sword-fish and cod go away. I'd like to see promotion of other, lesser-used things, to stop depleting our wild resources. I'd like to see less sous vide, where it's being overused, and I'd like to see menus that are varied in cooking techniques.


AC: With a Maltese mother and a Japanese-Norwegian father, what kinds of things were you eating as a kid?

WN: I have the reputation of being one of the earliest so-called fusion chefs, and I came by it honestly. We had Mediterranean and Japanese foods in my household, and as a child I thought it was normal. Growing up in the 1950s and '60s, there were not as many different ingredients available as there are now. In the last quarter of the 20th century, there was an enormous food revolution. The development of the American restaurant as we know it today did not exist until the early 1980s, and supermarkets and food distribution followed what chefs wanted. If my Maltese grandmother or my father wanted to make something from the old country, they had to make ingredient substitutions for things they couldn't find. The question I asked as an adult was, when these substitutions were made, did the recipes no longer have the integrity of the original dishes? Or did they become something new? I prefer to take the latter approach, and consider it a timely development in a different direction. I've always begun with ingredients. They're the vocabulary of culinary arts, and as vocabulary changes language, ingredients change cooking.

AC: I understand you left behind a successful career in printing to be a chef. How did that come about?

WN: That was just one step along the way. My original education was in journalism and architecture. Printing was a way to make a living. I had four photocopy and offset printing shops in Manhattan. Printing, while lucrative, was stultifyingly boring. I found myself reading material that came through the shop, which included Peter Kump course material, back when he was cooking and teaching out of his apartment. Cooking had always been a hobby. I grew up in a working-class family. We didn't have the money to go to fine restaurants, and as I became interested in better and better food I had to learn about it on my own. The real turning point for me was a dining experience in Switzerland, at Freddy Girardet's. I had no idea that work like that was being done, and I was determined to do it for myself. I liquidated what I could of the printing business, took a year off and went to the New York Restaurant School. I got my first restaurant job at the Quilted Giraffe, with Barry Wine, who was absolutely my mentor.

AC: So many chefs seem to be repeating the mantra of "seasonal and local" that it's almost lost its meaning. What is your approach to seasonality when writing a menu?

WN: I prefer being closer to the airport than the farm, practically speaking. It's a very romantic, wonderful notion of you do live closest to the ingredients, if you have them available all year 'round. We live in a Northern temperate climate, and if we were to rely exclusively on local products in the winter, we'd have nothing but cabbages and pumpkins. It's not commercially viable to expect to maintain a business with just those things.

AC: When you're looking to hire a cook at March, what do you look for?

WN: I look for someone who is well-educated, ambitious and self-disciplined. Ideally, someone with a general liberal arts education, or some demonstrated scholastic ability. I don't require a culinary school education. I've found that it often stifles a person's ability to be open. I've tried to make the effort to open my cooks' minds, but you cannot teach someone to be free-thinking. Everyone comes with their own references. My way of working in the kitchen, it's not anti-French, but it's American. It's, "Here's the objective, and let's see how we can get to it without a predetermined discipline." It's not always that easy to teach. It's more of an artistic approach than a codified one. I'll often think of what I want to achieve first in terms of flavor, and then the techniques and discipline come in. Whereas the French method is, "Here's the technique, which we apply to the ingredients, and the recipes follow."

AC: What are some tools that are essential in your kitchen? And what are some tools that you never or very rarely use?

WN: Knives, Japanese mandolines, the standard stuff I use a lot. The French mandoline I use very infrequently. Food mills and tamis, I use them much more than a mechanical device like a food processor. I've never used a CO2 dispenser.

AC: Do you prefer a certain brand or style of knife in your kitchen?

WN: I've experimented with different styles and manufacturers, but I've always come back to the European workhorses, primarily Wusthoff. The Japanese make exceptionally good slicers, but they do not make a very good French chef's knife. The French chef's knives that they sell are essentially shaped like French chef's knives from the side, but are really just slicers. What they miss entirely is the ability to be used as a light cleaver, which makes that type of knife an all-purpose tool.

Egg and Shrimp Packets with Manila Clams (Serves 4)

Deus Brut des Flandres

Bosteeles Brewery

Buggenhout, Belgium

For the ginger broth: In saucepan, combine stock, oil, ginger, garlic and lime leaves and bring to boil. Reduce by 1/2 and stir in juice. Strain through fine-mesh sieve and reserve.


For the omelet: In bowl, whisk together eggs, dashi, sugar, mirin, soy sauce and salt. Heat one teaspoon oil in nonstick Japanese omelet pan over medium heat and add 1/3 egg mixture. When egg is set, roll egg evenly towards opposite end of pan. Slide omelet back to near end of pan and add teaspoon oil. Add 1/3 egg mixture, lifting omelet to let egg cover bottom of pan. When egg is set, roll again to opposite end of pan. Repeat with remaining egg mixture. Remove omelef from pan and let cool.

For the packets: Top omelet with cilantro leaf and shrimp. Dip rice paper strip in cold water to soften and wrap around omelet. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

For the clams: Heat saute pan over medium heat and add sausage. Cook until fat is rendered, about three minutes. Remove sausage from pan and reserve. Add clams and broth to pan and bring to boil. Cover and steam until clams open, about two minutes. Season with salt.

To serve: Place clams on plate with broth and reserved sausage. Top with pockets, garnish with micro basil and serve.

For the ginger broth:
3 cups rich chicken stock
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces ginger, peeled and finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
6 kaffir lime leaves
Juice of 1 lime

For the omelet:
4 eggs
1/4 cup dashi
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon mirin
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil
Salt to taste

For the packets:
Omelet, from above, cut into twelve 2-inch squares
12 cilantro leaves
12 baby shrimp, peeled and steamed
Twelve 2 x 6-inch strips rice paper

For the clams:
8 ounces Chinese sausage, casing removed and finely chopped
40 Manila clams
Ginger broth, from above
Salt to taste

For the garnish:
Micro basil

Crab and Scallop Mousse Roll (Serves 2)

Shizuku Junmai Daiginjo Sake



For the mango coulis: In saucepan, bring sake to simmer over medium heat. Add mango and chili, reduce heat to low and cook until mixture is almost dry. Pass through fine-mesh sieve and let cool.

For the scallop mousse: In food processor fitted with metal blade, puree scallops until smooth. Transfer to bowl, stir in jalapeno pepper and season with salt and pepper.

For the roll: Place one piece surimi on work surface. Top with mousse and another piece surimi, and place three cilantro leaves along two sides. Dip rice paper in cold water to soften. Roll surimi in paper, pressing seam to seal. Place seam side down. Repeat with remaining surimi, mousse, cilantro and rice paper.

To serve: Spoon coulis on plate in three places. Top each with lotus root and roll and serve.

For the mango coulis:
1 cup sake
1/2 mango, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 small red chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped

For the scallop mousse:
8 ounces bay scallops
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the roll:
12 3-inch pieces Alaskan king crab surimi*
Scallop mousse, from above
36 cilantro leaves
6 sheets rice paper, cut into 3-inch squares

For the garnish:
Thinly sliced, peeled lotus root

*Ground crab meat that has been formed into sticks. Available at seafood and Asion markets.

Grilled Eel BLT (Serves 4)

Schneider Weisse Weizenhell

Schneider & Sohne


For the sriracha mayonnaise: In bowl, whisk together yolks, salt, sriracha, sugar and vinegar. While whisking, slowly add oil to emulsify. Whisk in verjus and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the BLT: Dip rice paper in water to soften and place on work surface. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and unagi and roll tightly, pinching ends of rice paper to seal.

To serve: Slice BLT and arrange on plate with mayonnaise. Garnish with micro-basil and serve.

For the sriracha mayonnaise:
2 egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt 1 teaspoon sriracha*
1/8 teaspoon raw cane sugar
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons verjus

For the BLT:
4 rice papers
4 large romaine lettuce leaves, rib removed
2 small tomatoes, sliced
3 ounces sliced bacon, cooked and chilled
6 ounces unagi**
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the garnish:

*Hot red chili sauce. Available through Thai Supermarket Online, (888) 618-8424 or

**Japanese river eel that is grilled and basted with sweet sauce. Available through Katagiri & Co., (212) 755-3566 or

Asian Fruit Salad with Vanilla and Bay Leaf Syrup (Serves 2)

Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venice

Domaine de Coyeux

Cotes-du-Rhone, France 2002

For the strawberry sauce: Place strawberries in plastic bag and vacuum-seal. Bring pot of water to boil and add bag. Simmer ten minutes. Strain strawberries through fine-mesh sieve and discard solids. In saucepan, bring liquid to boil over medium heat and reduce until syrup cool to back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the vanilla and bay leaf syrup: In saucepan, combine water and sugar. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar Remove from heat and let cool. Add vanilla and bay leaves to sugar mixture and bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the mint sauce: In blender, combine mint and corn syrup and puree until smooth. Transfer to saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat. Strain through fine-mesh sieve and let cool to room temperature.

For the rice paper rings: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Let cool to room temperature. Dip rice paper strips into sugar mixture and wrap around outside of oiled 3 1/2-inch ring molds. Place on sheet pan and bake until crisp, but not browned, about three minutes. Let cool and remove molds. Store in airtight container until ready to use.

For the fruit salad: In bowl, combine all ingredients. Strain through fine-mesh sieve and discard excess syrup. To serve: Brush mint sauce and strawberry sauce on plate. Arrange three rice paper rings atop sauces, fill with fruit, garnish with mint and serve.

For the strawberry sauce:
1 pint strawberries, hulled

For the vanilla and bay leaf syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 bay leaves

For the mint sauce:
1 bunch mint leaves
1 cup light corn syrup

For the rice paper rings:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 sheets rice paper, cut into 4 x 1/2-inch strips

For the fruit salad:
6 blackberries
6 blueberries
4 rambutan, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped*
1 dragonfruit, peeled and cut into medium dice**
1/2 soursop, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
6 lychees, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
6 longans, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped***
Vanilla and bay leaf syrup, from above

For the garnish:
Mint leaves

*White fleshed, slightly acidic fruit with spiny red skin, native to southeast Asia. Available in Asian markets.

**Sweet and tart fruit with custard-like texture and green skin, native to the Caribbean and Central and South America. Also known as guana-bana, available in Latin markets.

***Brown-shelled white-fleshed fruit similar to a lychee, native to Asia. Available in Asian markets.

Patricia Yeo



Patricia Yeo was just a dissertation away from earning her PhD in biochemistry from Princeton University when she took a detour into restaurants. Her first cooking job was at Miracle Grill, under chef Bobby Flay "He ran an ad in the New York Times, looking to fill a garde manger position," says Yeo, "and I had the audacity to answer it." She had no experience, and had only recently completed a brief, non-professional culinary course. Flay was understandably reluctant to hire her, but fate intervened. "There was a contractor working in the restaurant who thought I was really cute," she explains, "so I got the job."


Yeo followed Flay to Mesa Grill, where she was named sous chef, then moved to San Francisco to work with the late Barbara Tropp at China Moon. Yeo's publicist-penned biography states that "Tropp taught Yeo the basic philosophies behind the true Asian cooking," but Yeo herself says, "You know, I really admired Barbara, and she did teach me a lot about Asian cuisine, but I don't know that there is any philosophy behind any cooking. It has to taste good. That's the way things work."

She returned to New York to become the sous chef at Bolo, Flay's Spanish restaurant, then moved back out to San Francisco to help David and Annie Gingrass open Hawthorne Lane. Back in New York a few years later, Yeo was tapped to open AZ, and earned raves from the New York food media, including a three-star review from the New York Times' William Grimes. She's quick to point out that she wouldn't have been able to achieve that success without the help of her good friend Pino Maffeo The two had met as line cooks in a short-lived San Francisco restaurant, and when she called him to help her open AZ, "he literally dropped everything and moved to New York." The duo went on to open pAZo, a Mediterranean concept, but by 2003 Yeo had closed both shops and set out for a year and a half's worth of travelling through Asia, Australia and New Zealand. "I was running back and forth between the two places, and I was tired," she explains. "I needed a break."

Renewed and inspired, Yeo returned again to New York and began the process of finding real estate and partners for another restaurant venture. She was waiting on a handful of "maybes" when she got a call from one of the owners of a brand-new restaurant, called Sapa. He was unhappy with the way the first few days of business had gone, and was looking to replace his chef.

"We met on a Thursday, and I started on a Monday," she says. "I was lucky enough to have some staff members from AZ that knew I could count on. I called them all and said, "We're starting a new gig. Meet me on Monday at II a.m.'" The restaurant is named for a hill town in Vietnam where French colonists spent their vacations, but apart from its dedicated summer roll station (actually a freestanding bar in the dining room), the menu is not strictly Asian.

"Sometimes I'll introduce a new dish or a special and a cook will ask me, 'What makes it Asian?' and I'll say, 'Well, an Asian person cooked it!'" Yeo says with a laugh. "I'm not going to throw shiitake mushrooms and a piece of lemongrass on something just so I can call it Asian."

Some twenty years after leaving behind her career in science, Yeo is fully dedicated to the restaurant business. She arrives each morning at 5:30 a.m., so that she can have a few hours alone in the kitchen to experiment with new ideas. She helps her staff prep for lunch, spends about two hours in a nearby gym and then returns to finish dinner prep and work the line.

"At some point, being in this business, it becomes your whole life," says Yeo. "You're not going to have time for much else. It's not for everyone, and I wish the culinary schools would do a better job of letting people know that Not every student has the potential to be a Bobby Flay or a Mario Batali. Chefs are not supposed to be celebrities! We smell bad, we're adrenaline junkies and we have strange social habits!" Yeo laughs before concluding, "You have to look at it and say, these people are my family."

Rice Paper Rolls (Serves 4)

Tiger Pale Lager


For the dipping sauce: Combine all ingredients in food processor fitted with metal blade. Puree until smooth. For the rice papers: Combine water and beer in shallow dish. Soak rice papers, one at a time, just before making rolls.

For the tuna tartare roll: In small bowl, combine tuna and oil. Stir in sriracha, mayonnaise and juice, and season with salt and pepper. Place papers on towel and top with lettuce. Spread hoisin sauce on each and top with basil and tuna. Place jicama on tuna and roll tightly.

For the lobster salad roll: In bowl, combine lobster, mayonnaise, shallots, zest and juice. Season with Tabasco[R], salt and pepper. Lay papers on towel and top with lettuce, mint and lobster mixture. Roll tightly.

For the vegetable roll: Cut papers on diagonal to make eight triangles. Lay triangle on towel and top with asparagus, carrots, cucumber, pea shoots, mint and basil. Roll into cone shape.

To serve: Slice tuna tartare roll crosswise and lobster salad roll on bias. Arrange on plate with vegetable rolls and sauce and serve.

For the dipping sauce:
2 Thai bird chilis, stemmed and seeded
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Zest of 1/2 lime, plus juice of 2 limes
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup granulated sugar

For the rice paper wrappers:
1 quart warm water
1/2 cup beer
8 8-inch round rice papers
4 8-inch square rice papers

For the tuna tartare roll:
4 ounces finely chopped bluefin tuna
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons sriracha*
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lime
4 round rice papers, from above
4 Boston lettuce leaves, thick rib removed
2 teaspoons hoisin sauce
4 Thai basil leaves
4 4 x 1/4-inch sticks peeled jicama

For the lobster salad roll:
4 ounces diced cooked lobster
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 Boston lettuce leaves, thick rib removed
4 mint leaves
4 round rice papers, from above
Tabasco[R] sauce to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the vegetable roll:
8 square rice papers, from above
6 small asparagus tips, blanched and refreshed
1 carrot, peeled and finely julienned
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely julienned
Small bunch pea shoots
4 mint leaves
4 basil leaves

*Thai hot red chili sauce. Available through Thai Supermarket Online, (888) 618-8424 or

Swordfish and Rice Paper "Lasagna" (Serves 2)

Extra Dry Sake

Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto


For the swordfish: Preheot grill. In small bowl, combine paste, honey, juice and zest. Brush mixture on swordfish and grill until cooked through. Let rest five minutes and slice thinly.

For the "lasagna": Preheat grill. Brush onion with oil and grill until softened. Chop onion finely. Soak two rice papers in warm water until pliable and place on work surface atop each other. Top with one quarter each of the swordfish, onions, mango, pineapple and chili. Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with two papers. Garnish with shallots, cavior and chives and serve.

For the swordfish:
2 tablespoons red curry paste
2 tablespoons honey
Juice and zest of 1 lime
6 ounces swordfish, skin removed

For the "lasagna":
1 red onion, peeled and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rings
1 tablespoon canola oil
10 8-inch round rice papers
1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped mango
1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped pineapple
1 red Fresno chili, thinly sliced crosswise

For the garnish:
Deep-fried shallots
Red tobikko caviar
Finely chopped chives

Asian Fritto Misto (Serves 4)

Pinot Noir


Malborough, New Zealand 2005

For the tomato and black bean sauce: Heat oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and ginger and cook until onions are softened. Increase heat to high, add beans and saute until beans are very fragrant. Stir in tomatoes and bring to boil. Add sake and reduce by half. Add stock and reduce by a quarter. Transfer to bowl and, using immersion blender, chop finely. Stir in fish sauce, salt and sugar and keep warm.

For the imperial roll: Heat oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and saute until liquid evaporates. Season with salt and pepper, transfer to large bowl and let cool completely. Coarsely chop noodles and add to mushrooms. Stir in pork, shrimp, carrot, cilantro, lemongrass, peppers, fish sauce and sambal. Season with salt and pepper. Soak rice papers in warm water until pliable and pat dry with paper towels. Divide filling between rice papers and roll each to form thin cylinder, folding in sides to seal.

For the tempura: In deep-fryer or tall-sided pot, heat oil to 350 degrees. In bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add club soda and stir until just combined. Dip asparagus in batter, leaving tips uncoated, and fry until golden. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with sweet potatoes, coating entirely. Dip shrimp in batter, leaving heads uncoated, and fry until batter is golden. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Add imperial rolls to oil uncoated, fry until cooked through and golden, about three minutes, and transfer to paper towels to drain.

To serve: Slice imperial roll on bias and arrange with asparagus, sweet potatoes and shrimp. Place small ramekin of sauce alongside, garnish with pea shoots and peppers and serve.

For the tomato and black bean sauce:
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped ginger
1 cup fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups Pomi[R] chopped tomatoes
1 cup sake
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon fish sauce
Granulated sugar to taste
Salt to taste

For the imperial rolls:
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 ounces finely chopped mushrooms
1/2 ounce bean thread noodles, soaked in cold water*
4 ounces ground pork
2 ounces finely chopped shrimp
1 small carrot, peeled and finely grated
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sambal**
4 8-inch round rice papers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the fritto misto:
2 quarts canola oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup club soda, chilled
1 bunch asparagus spears, ends trimmed
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick and blanched
12 large whole shrimp, peeled and deveined Imperial rolls, from above

For the garnish:
Pea shoots
Thinly sliced red chili pepper

*Thin dried noodles made from mung beans. Also known as mung bean noodles or glass noodles. Available through Thai Supermarket Online, (888) 618-8424 or

**Indonesian red chili paste, available through Thai Supermarket Online, (888) 618-8424 or
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Publication:Art Culinaire
Date:Dec 22, 2006
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