Vietnamese spring rolls are one of my favorite appetizers. When I make them, I go with Mark Bittman’s recipe from the 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, though I have grown the Thai basil in my farm garden.)
On a Roll
There are only two cooked items in this recipe: rice vermicelli and the protein. (I use 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.
Spring Roll Secrets
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.
Mark Bittman, The New York Times kitchen guru, said he had learned three things about spring roll making:
- Rice paper is very forgiving, but easier to roll if not overstuffed.
- The best combination of herbs is: basil, mint and cilantro.
- And, the more you make the easier it gets. (I would add, the prepared rolls should be covered with a damp cloth until ready to serve.)
Sassy and Saucy
I suppose I could make the Vietnamese dipping sauce, or nuoc mam, featured below. But I usually turn to 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 in half lengthwise.
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. Set out the dipping sauce and/or peanut sauce.
- 4 tsp. fish sauce (such as Red Boat)
- 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.
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