When people ask me about my website, I explain that the name comes from a love of eating – the Gourmand part – and a love of trying new things – the Experimental part. Both of these are combined in this post about making Vietnamese Spring Rolls. I don’t remember the first time that I ate them, but they are one of my favorite things to order at Vietnamese restaurants.
The burning hot rolls come straight from the fryer to the table where you pick one up and wrap it in a cool, crisp lettuce leaf sprinkled with citrusy cilantro and refreshing mint. Before you take that first bite, dunk it into the spicy, sweet, peanut-y sauce that is served on the side. Then, eat it. You get meaty, crunchy, green, spicy, hot, and herby tastes all going on at once. Your senses and your tongue are perked up and brought to life as your brain just utters the word, “YUM.” They are completely addictive.
Inspired by the cooking course that I mentioned I’d taken earlier this summer, I took a few of the recipes that I saw on line and fiddled around with them to get what I think is a very approximate version of this dish. Unfortunately, as you can see, I haven’t yet mastered the frying part to get the solid crispy crunch of the exterior shell that you get in the restaurant versions. I guess I’ll just have to keep making batches of them until I get it right!
Vietnamese Summer Rolls
Prep Time: 30-ish minutes
Serving Size: 12 rolls
1/4 c. Bean Thread Noodles
5 large Shrimp (16-count* is fine), peeled and deveined
1/4 lb. Ground Pork
1 medium Carrot, minced
3 large Shitake Mushrooms, minced
1 Tbsp. minced fresh Basil leaves
Handful of Cilantro leaves (not stems)
Handful of fresh Mint leaves
Red leaf Lettuce
12 Rice Paper Wrappers (see photo)
Canola or Peanut Oil for frying
1 Tbsp. Rice Wine Vinegar
1/2 tsp. Simple Syrup
1 Tbsp. chopped Peanuts
Put dry bean thread noodles in a bowl and pour boiling water over them to soften. While waiting for this to take place, put pork in a separate bowl. Chop up shrimp finely. I recommend using a knife to do this rather than a food processor, as that can make a paste of the shrimp meat, and this recipe needs for it to have some texture. Put shrimp in the same bowl as the pork.
Check the bean thread noodles. They should be soft and flexible, sort of like jellyfish tentacles. Chop them roughly with a knife; they don’t have to be really small pieces. Then, add the chopped mushrooms, carrots, basil, and bean thread noodles to the bowl with the meat.
Pour in fish sauce. The fish sauce I used in this recipe is a brand that I found at the Hester Street Fair. The ingredient list to make this same sauce is at the bottom of this post. Mix in the fish sauce with the meat and vegetables until everything is well combined.
Count out 12 of the rice paper wrappers. Fill a shallow bowl or dish with warm water.
Soak one of the wrappers in the water for about 30 seconds. Remove it and place it on the board or a towel making sure to get it as flat as possible. Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling about 1/3 the way from one edge of the wrapper.
Then, make the first roll of the wrapper, taking the short edge and carefully lifting it up and over all of the filling ingredients. Take care to roll these tightly and not to overstuff them, as they will need to cook all the way through during the frying part of the process.
The first roll
Before making the next roll forward, tuck in both sides of the wrapper, making sure to push all the filling ingredients together so that nothing is sticking out too far. Then roll it forward.
Tuck in sides and filling ingredients
Continue to roll forward about one to two more times, keeping the ingredients and the sides tucked in tightly. This will keep the roll from falling apart and the filling intact when frying it.
Finish by rolling up the whole wrapper
Continue with the rest of the wrappers and the ingredients. Make the dipping sauce by whisking together the fish sauce, vinegar, simple syrup, and peanuts. Prepare the lettuce leaves, cilantro, and mint and put on a serving platter or plate. Put dipping sauce into shallow bowls and put it and the lettuce and herbs on the table ready to be served.
Heat canola or peanut oil in a wok or skillet. Put 2-3 rolls in at a time, making sure not to let them touch each other. Turn them to make sure that they cook on all sides. This will take about 5 minutes or so. Take cooked spring rolls out of the oil and briefly drain on paper towels before serving them hot and crispy.
*Kitchen Witch Tip:
I really like using the prepared fish sauce indicated in the recipe for its balance of flavors and its mild kick, but you can make something similar to it using the following ingredients:
Take 1 Tbsp. Asian fish sauce, 1 clove of garlic, and 1/2 tsp. light brown sugar and dissolve it to make the 1 Tbsp. called for in the filling.
For the dipping sauce, use 2 Tbsp. Asian fish sauce, 1 clove of garlic, 1/4 tsp. light brown sugar, and 1/2 Thai red chili de-seeded and very finely chopped.