As promised, a vegetarian spring roll recipe, plus tips on any combination of flavors for your personalized dipping sauce.
In the middle of winter, it’s nice to get a glimpse of what spring and summer might bring with fresh, raw, crunchy vegetables and herbs, piled into rice paper rolls and paired with a satisfyingly salty dipping sauce.
Unfortunately, I don’t dabble with too many deep-fried options, like egg rolls or lucky “gold bars,” but I found a blog post that provides the perfect fried egg roll recipe plus a video tutorial about rolling. Check out this post on The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook for another recipe for spring rolls.
What makes these rolls Vietnamese as opposed to Chinese (also fried) is the choice of fresh herbs and the usual dipping sauce suspects. I will tell you that if you aren’t a huge fan of fishy flavors, or if you’re going for the vegetarian version, you’ll want to steer clear of fish sauce. I love it, and I think it adds incredibly depth where chicken stock or beef demi-glace just won’t do the trick. The fish flavor is light, almost sweet, and a few drops certainly go a long way.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls (2 per person, servings dependent on supplies)
2 oz. rice vermicelli noodles, cut in half and soaked until tender
8 rice paper wrappers (They’ll seem huge, but just you wait.)
optional: stick-style imitation crab meat, sliced in half lengthwise
fresh basil leaves
fresh mint leaves
fresh cilantro, stems optional (I love the extra crunch and flavor where I can get them.)
1/2 small head savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded carrot
Suggestions for sauce (amount per serving)
2 tsp. fish sauce + 2 Tbsp. water + 1 clove garlic, minced +1 tsp. chili-garlic sauce (sambal oelek)
1 Tbsp. Hoisin sauce + 1 Tbsp. water + 1 tsp. roughly chopped unsalted peanuts
ponzu sauce, lemon or lime
1 Tbsp. sesame oil + thinly sliced scallion + 1 Tbsp. orange juice + 1 tsp. soy sauce or tamari
any combination of the above!
1) Arrange an assembly line from left to right (or right to left, if you work that way better) of the following: open package of rice paper wrappers, large dish (large enough to fit wrappers) with a shallow level of warm water, cutting board or otherwise clean surface area for rolling, cabbage, carrots, herbs, optional crab strips.
2) Soak one paper at a time, holding down for 10 seconds on each side. You want it to be soft and malleable but not totally mushy and dripping with too much water.
3) Quickly lay it flat on your rolling surface. In the lower portion of the center (closer to your body), place a small line of cabbage, carrot, a piece of each herb and any seafood you might want. Lift the bottom edge of the rice paper up and over the contents, wrapping it tight underneath. Continue rolling the rice paper over until you’ve almost reached the other edge. At this point, tightly fold the edges in, and complete the roll.
4) Place seam-side down on a plate or serving platter, and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes before serving. Cut each roll in half on a bias. Serve with a small cup of dipping sauce.
If you’re totally failing with the rice paper wrappers or would rather not mess with the rolling, you can always serve the contents over a bed of cold rice vermicelli noodles and pour your sauce on top for improvised Vietnamese spring roll noodles.