International Flair: Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Spring roll fixings

A Korean friend introduced me to this recipe.  When she invited me over to have spring rolls for dinner, I was a little concerned since I was only familiar with the fried version that are like little egg rolls.  These were a delightful surprise!

This is a cool and interactive meal since all of the cooking is done ahead of time, and each person assembles their own spring rolls at the table based upon their own tastes.  I don’t think it really qualifies as a quick meal, though, since there is quite a bit of prep slicing and a little bit of cooking (for the meat, eggs, and noodles).  It’s easy to put all of the pieces in the refrigerator ahead of time, though, and pull them out at the last minute.

Even if you’re eating alone, it’s worth the time to arrange everything nicely.  The presentation is half of the fun!

One of the most fascinating things about these spring rolls is the transformation that takes place after dipping the rice paper into the water.  Each sheet begins as a stiff and brittle sheet and within a minute or so transforms into a pliable and nearly transparent film.  It seems like a fitting food for the Easter season when we’re celebrating unexpected transformations!

Ingredients:

  • your choice of fillings (see the suggestions below or search online for other ideas)
  • Vietnamese rice paper sheets (as pictured above)
  • dipping sauce (hoisin sauce spiced up with as much sriracha chili sauce as suits your taste)

Directions:

  1. Arrange the fillings on a plate or platter.
  2. Set the table with the platter of fillings, a shallow dish of water, the stack of rice paper, and the dipping sauce.
  3. To make a spring roll, submerge a sheet of rice paper in the dish of water for a few seconds and remove.  (It will still be stiff when you remove it but will quickly become pliable.)  Place the moistened rice paper on your plate and arrange fillings to suit your taste along the center, kind of like filling a taco.  (This is the step pictured below.)  Season with the dipping sauce.  By now the rice paper should be pliable.  Fold or roll it up like a burrito.
  4. Eat and repeat with your choice of fillings!

Pick and choose from these filling ingredients, or add others of your own:

  • shredded cabbage
  • shredded lettuce
  • fresh cilantro sprigs
  • fresh basil leaves
  • julienned carrots and cucumber
  • thinly sliced bell peppers
  • baby spinach leaves
  • thinly sliced beef, marinated in hoisin sauce and cooked until done
  • imitation crab sticks
  • shrimp
  • eggs (lightly beaten as for scrambled eggs and then fried into a thin sheet and thinly sliced)
  • thin rice noodles, cooked and drained

A spring roll ready to be rolled up

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