Vietnamese spring rolls are one of my favorite appetizers. Recently, I invited my farm guests to make their own from an assortment of ingredients. I went with Mark Bittman’s recipe from the New York Times. True, the recipe requires a run to United Provisions, Jay International or Global Market. (You can’t get Thai basil leaves and rice paper rounds at just any grocery store.)
On a Roll
There are only two cooked items in this recipe: rice vermicelli and the protein. (I used fried tilapia; Bittman uses pork or spiced shrimp.) So everything can be assembled pretty quickly.
The fun begins with dipping the transparent rice paper rounds into hot water for several seconds to make them pliable enough to wrap around the filing.
The secret to success is rolling the appetizers tightly, so they have a nice shape. The first few may look a bit shaggy, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.
Spring rolls should be served at room temperature and eaten immediately. Supposedly, you cover them with a damp cloth until served, but these disappeared too quickly. I never got a towel over them! I didn’t even get a photo of a full plate!!
Sassy and Saucy
Bittman also includes a recipe for the Vietnamese dipping sauce, or nuoc mam, but I use the house version made at Banh Mi So on South Grand, because it’s so doggone good. Some people prefer a peanut sauce, but either, or both, are fine accompaniments.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
- 16 (6” rounds) rice paper
- 8 lettuce leaves, washed dried and torn or chopped. (I use Bibb)
- 2 cups cooked rice vermicelli, cooked, rinsed and drained.
- 1 cup peeled, shredded carrots
- ½ cup each fresh mint leaves, Thai basil leaves, and cilantro
- Fried tilapia pieces or grilled shrimp that’s split lengthwise in half
Dip a sheet of rice paper into a bowl of hot water for several seconds and lay on damp towel.
Working on bottom third of rice paper, spread a bit of lettuce, rice vermicelli, carrots, herbs, and cooked fish. Fold up bottom edge to cover, then fold in the sides. Roll tightly. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Serve rolls immediately or lightly cover with damp cloth. Serve with dipping sauce and/or peanut sauce
- 4 tsp. fish sauce
- ¼ cup water
- 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 Tbs. white sugar
- ½ tsp. garlic-chili paste
- Mix all ingredients in a small bowl.
- 3 Tbs. peanut butter
- 3 Tbs. soy sauce
- 2 Tbs. lime juice
- 1 tsp. fresh minced ginger
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. honey
- Sriracha, as desired for heat
Combine all ingredients in bowl and stir until smooth. May be doubled, if needed.