This is the week I was supposed to be in Nova Scotia visiting my folks. Although I moved to Toronto nearly 13 years ago, I still go through bouts of homesickness. They usually increase in intensity during the summer months because, well, Nova Scotia is particularly spectacular in the summer. Usually, I visit around this time to ease this annual affliction. But due to COVID, I will be staying in Toronto this summer. So instead of swimming in my beloved Atlantic, star gazing, and building bonfires with my dad, I will be traveling via my dinner plate. I think it’s fair to say, these Lobster Fresh Rolls with Sambal Mayo won’t be the last East Coast fantasy meal you’ll find on this blog this summer.
Now, this recipe’s whole schtick should be fairly obvious. These rolls contain everything you would normally find in a classic lobster roll but I ditched the bun in favor of rice paper wrappers. Oh, and I added rice noodles because why wouldn’t you add noodles? But I think I’m getting ahead of myself. I am, perhaps, leaving those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of biting into a classic lobster roll behind. So let’s explore the anatomy of a lobster roll, shall we?
A lobster roll in it’s most basic incarnation is lobster meat packed into a hot dog bun. Now, there are a lot of opinions about lobster rolls. Some people believe it’s not a lobster roll without mayo, others swear butter is the only game in town. People get heated over the inclusion of celery. Ditto for shaved fennel. Most feel butter lettuce is essential, but I have met those who want nothing but the lobster and bun. And speaking of the bun, well it comes with its own host of controversies. To toast or not to toast, that is the question.
Rather than wade through the intricacies of each of these on-going battles, I will simply tell you how I like my lobster roll. Let’s start with the bun. I only recognize top split buns. I recently found out these are called New England-style hot dog buns. When I was a kid they were just hot dog buns. The bun must be butter on either side and toasted until golden – this is non-negotiable.
The lobster meat itself must be dressed with a delicate amount of mayo. The bun may or may not include shaved fennel and/or a small amount of celery. Not too much, a lot of places use celery to pad out the bun and I’m not about that cheapskate crap. Dill must be included but it must not overpower and I appreciate a hint of lemon but again I don’t want to be overwhelmed by it. And there you have it, my ultimate lobster roll experience.
There is one more thing that is essential when enjoying a lobster roll and that is context. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a lobster roll at a beach adjacent shack with three things on the menu. This scenario cannot be improved upon. Now, these shacks are scarce around these parts, so I thought rather than create the lobster roll of my dreams and eat it in my street adjacent backyard, I’d start a new tradition. If you can’t live your dreams to the hilt, change your dreams. That’s not a saying but maybe it should be.
My undying love for Vietnamese food was one of the things I gained from my time here in Toronto. So it only seemed fitting to marry everything I was missing from my home province with something Toronto gave me that I value deeply. And so these Lobster Fresh Rolls with Sambal Mayo were born. Now, I realize sambal oelek is Indonesian but it made so much sense in the mayo, who was I to deny it?
In these Lobster Fresh Rolls, you will find lobster, shaved fennel, rice vermicelli, fresh dill, fresh cilantro, and butter lettuce. Rather than coating the lobster with the sambal mayo prior to placing it in the roll, I opted to include it as a dipping sauce. Leaving the mayo out of the roll itself keeps the veg crisp and allows diners to take only as much mayo as they want. It’s the perfect way to side-step any potential lobster roll-related arguments.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Lobster Fresh Rolls with Sambal Mayo. They may not be quite as enjoyable as a dip in the Atlantic, but they’re pretty close. And to be frank, these rolls are as close as I’m gonna get for a while.
Lobster Fresh Rolls with Sambal Mayo
- ½ cup mayo
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp sambal oelek
- 1 tsp honey
Lobster Fresh Rolls with Sambal Mayo
- 2 (1.5 lb) lobsters cooked
- 250g (9 oz) dried rice vermicelli
- 1 small fennel bulb shaved
- ½ lime juiced
- ¼ tsp salt
- 16 sprigs dill
- 16 sprigs cilantro
- 1 head butter lettuce washed
- 8 sheets rice paper
For the Mayo
- Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the Rolls
- Remove the meat from the lobsters and set aside.
- Bring a kettle full of water to a boil and place the noodles in a large bowl. Cover the noodles with the boiling water and place a lid on top. Leave the noodles to steep for 5 minutes or until tender. Drain the noodles and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
- Place the fennel, lime juice and salt in a bowl and toss to coat. Set aside.
- Place a sheet of rice paper in a pie plate full of lukewarm water. Fully immerse the sheet before transfer to a cutting board. The sheet should still be a little rigid when you transfer it to the cutting board. It will continue to soften while you're building your roll.
- Place a leaf of lettuce and a good amount of lobster meat side by side on the rice paper sheet. Cheat the lettuce and lobster to the left side of the sheet so they will poke out the top when the roll is rolled. Add a good amount of noodles and shaved fennel on top and finish with two sprigs of dill and two sprigs of cilantro. Tuck the left side of the rice paper sheet in towards the center and, starting with the end closest to you, roll the rice paper sheet away from you as you would a burrito. Repeat with the remaining rice paper sheets.
- Transfer the finished rolls to a platter and serve with the Sambal Mayo on the side for dipping. Enjoy with a cold beer and sunshine.