Saturday, June 29, 2013

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls

Vietnamese rice paper rolls are perhaps my favourite meal of all time and I love introducing people to them. When I first discovered them a few years ago at our local Vietnamese restaurant, it was love at first sight, taste and smell. All of the fresh, crispy fillings and the smell of the mint and basil along with the steam from the hot water... it was a sensory overload for not just my taste buds, but my other senses as well. We quickly realised that it was very easy (& cheaper) to make at home and much of the joy for me in this meal is that all of the prep work can be done in advance. Come dinnertime, all that needs to be done is boil some water! This is not necessarily the best meal to prepare on the boat while we are in open water as tossing and turning and boiling water don’t mix so well but as we are currently safely out of the water, this was the perfect meal to enjoy last night at the end of a miserable rainy day.

Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls

Rice paper
Rice noodles – prepared as per directions and chopped (generally soak in boiling water for 3-5 min and then drain)
Bean Sprouts (Mung)
Carrot - shredded or finely sliced
Cucumber - finely sliced
Capsicum/Pepper - finely sliced  (I prefer red as it adds some colour)
Avocado – sliced
Baked Tofu – sliced (~1cm wide, homemade or store bought)
Crushed peanuts
Green onions – chopped
Chili – finely chopped
Sweet Chili Sauce
Peanut Sauce

Once all of the ingredients are prepped, all that remains is to assemble the roll. I just put out the ingredients, along with one or two bowls of hot/warm water and let everyone assemble their own, though if you are feeling kind it can be done in advance.

1. With a bowl/pot of (not too) hot water, making sure you keep hold of the rice paper, dip it in and slowly feed it around through your fingers so that the paper wets evenly. You will know it is done when it loses its rigidity and looks pliable in the water. Just keep in mind that you don't want it to get too soft. Spread the paper out on your plate.
2. Fill. Place which ever of the ingredients you prefer in the middle of the paper and leave space on either side so that it can be tucked in later.

3. Roll. If you have ever rolled a burrito, this is very similar. Pull one long edge over the fillings and tuck it on the other side, fold in the two short sides and roll it the rest of the way. 
4. Eat & Repeat! We enjoy sweet chili sauce and spicy peanut sauce with our rolls. You can either put the sauce on the inside before you roll (as Bryce does) or on the outside as you eat (as I do).

Working with the rice paper is the hardest part about this but the more you work with it, the easier it will become! The paper doesn't have to be perfect and don't worry about messing up. Generally packets of rice paper have tons in there so there are plenty for practicing and making mistakes! There are certainly other fillings you could add (meat or seafood included), this just how I do it. There are no quantities listed for the ingredients as it truly is up to each person what they put in their roll. The amounts that I do generally prepare last for 2-3 more meals of rice paper rolls depending on the number of people present and you can always use the exact same ingredients to make a stir fry or salad. 
Fresh Vietnamese rice noodle salad

Friday, June 28, 2013

Galley Disasters

Cooking in someone else’s kitchen is always different and harder than it is cooking in your own kitchen. You don’t know where anything is, the implements and dishes are different and even the slight variation in the ingredients present can be interesting. I cope in those situations and even enjoy the chance to discover some new ingredients, techniques or toys. But now, my kitchen galley is the foreign kitchen and I don’t just have to cope with it for one meal or one day. It’s mine to keep for the unforeseeable future.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fresh & Delicious Guacamole!

Around here, avocados have been as cheap as 5 cents each lately. I took advantage of those prices and bought a whole heap that I am storing in the fridge and ripening as needed. Avocados reminds me of summer and as the northern hemisphere is in the middle of summer, I am in denial on the other side of the world! When I see avocados, the first thing that comes to mind is guacamole and I believe that I learned how to make it from the best. I spent a summer working in a Mexican food cart that my friends owned and part of my job was to help with the food prep beforehand. Each morning, one of my jobs was to make the guacamole. 

My friends taught me how to use milk to prevent the guacamole from turning brown. Some people use citrus juice to stop it from turning and others the seed. I use citrus juice because it’s an essential part of the flavour and the seed because I think it’s a great garnish but to stop guacamole from turning brown I make sure that I use plastic wrap and press it directly against the guac. Once you remove the plastic, ideally it will be eaten before it can change colours but if you make it in advance covering it in plastic and storing it in the fridge should stop the colour change.


This recipe will serve two (ish?) as a snack or, I am not ashamed to say, as it did tonight, dinner for one!

2 small avocados
1 small onion, diced
1/4 small green capsicum (pepper), diced (~1/2 cup diced)
1 small tomato, diced
1 garlic clove, finely diced
chili, finely diced, to your palate
Juice of 1 lime (or lemon if you are in a pinch)
Small handful of Cilantro/Coriander, roughly chopped
Salt, to taste

  1. Removed the avocado flesh and place in a bowl. Roughly mash with a fork.
  2. Add diced onion, tomato, garlic and chili. Stir, gently. You do want chunky avocado and everything else, not pureed.
  3. Stir in juice, cilantro and salt, to taste.
  4. Garnish with the seed, serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!
The level of salt, much like chili, is a personal preference. I think that salt is one of the secrets of good guacamole, add enough and it gives it a beautiful milky, creamy taste. There is a very fine line though, as with anything, where once you add too much, you can’t go back. Be sure to take into account the saltiness that the chips will provide.  So be careful, add to your taste and go make guacamole!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Short lived glory....

For those of you who thought we had sailed away to some exotic islands... think again! 
Getting cozy with the Mooloolaba Coast Guard

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Getting ready to go!

Once the boat went back in the water, we busied ourselves making it shipshape. One lesson I learned (and which allows Bryce to say "I told you so") was that it wasn't the best idea to have cleaned the boat before work was done on it! I spent a large amount of time cleaning up grease and other messes from random places and scrubbing the deck to remove black work boot footprints, which still haven't come off - new rule: Only dedicated boat shoes are allowed to be worn on-board... full stop no exceptions!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Crew

 Meet the First Mate

Hi, I'm Alissa. I will (for now) be the first mate, nurse, cook, navigator, bosun,  winch person, seamstress, cleaner, painter and all around disgusting jobs specialist among surely many other things on board Aquabat, as well as the primary voice here on A to B to Sea. We know our roles will evolve, especially as I get more comfortable with sailing, but these are just distinctions we have made from the beginning to ensure that all areas are covered!   

Although it had always been on my list of things to learn to do, sailing was never something I actively pursued until I met Bryce. Our first sailing trip together (and my first time sailing ever!) was a week long charter in New Zealand and while I wasn't blown away, the good news was that I didn't hate it and didn't get violently seasick! My real sailing education came during the summer of 2012 while we were living in Wisconsin and both joined Hoofers Sailing Club.  As I have learned to sail and have been learning more about sailboats in general, my appreciation for sailing has grown. More than just the sport of sailing itself, my eyes have been opened to this seemingly massive sailing sub-culture where there is such a sense of community that I love.  

From the beginning I always said that even if I didn't like sailing, I could still appreciate where it would take me. I love to travel and am looking forward to all of the places that we are going to go, things we are going to see, people we are going to meet and food we are going to try. For me this is one of the most exciting things about this whole adventure. On the other hand, having traveled and moved so much in the last few years, I am really looking forward to being able to settle into one home for at least the next five years and have it travel with us. In this life we are choosing, I feel as though we are getting the best of both worlds.
Meet the Captain

I'm Bryce and this whole shebang is the culmination of my dream of the last 10 years or so.  During this time, we've been scrimping and saving away some money to make it reality.  It is enormously exciting, humbling and daunting that we've been lucky enough to be able to embark on this voyage/adventure at this stage of our lives.  I first started sailing as a youth crew on the sail training ship Young Endeavour.  I fell in love with it then, and have been lucky enough to have sailed on the East Coast of Australia, the Tasman Sea, New Zealand, the Coral Sea, and the lakes (great and otherwise) of North America.  

I've got a stack of jobs on board.  These include captain, pilot, weatherman, electrician, plumber, diesel mechanic, computer technician, radio operator, radar operator, accountant, handy man.  It's a bit of a handful trying to get all these skills up to a reasonable level; basically if it breaks while we're at sea and we can't fix it, we need to do without it!  Therefore my philosophy is to keep things as simple as possible, and have backups for important systems wherever possible.  

We're not dealing with extreme sailing here.  To me, good seamanship is about avoiding possible issues before they come up, such as to avoid tropical cyclone areas in their danger seasons and avoiding high latitudes sailing in the winter. I'm very conservative when it comes to dealing with the power of the sea! Wherever possible, we'll be staying comfortable and well rested and keeping our boat in good condition so crew and boat have the best chance of dealing successfully with what may come. 

We both hope that we're able to meet with our friends and family at several points along the way and that they can come and enjoy some of this experience with us - enjoy reading our blog and we hope to see you soon!