Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Perfect Summer Dinner: Fresh Spring Rolls

It is hot out.  Like gross, sweaty, don't-want-to-turn-the-stove-on hot out.  Days like this we try to eat something cool for dinner - but you can really only eat so many straight up salads, so here is one of our favorites for evenings when the AC can't even keep up with the heat.  I've heard them called fresh spring rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls and even summer rolls - basically, our version is just a salad wrapped in rice paper and it's delicious.  Once you set up your assembly station, preparation really goes quite quickly - and I know everyone always thinks I went to way more trouble than I actually did. Easy, healthy and delicious. 

You can really put anything you'd like in these; I chose: 
Grated Carrots
Mixed Greens
and of course the Rice Paper, which you can find in Asian Groceries - or really, most grocery stores in my area.

But you can use marinated tofu, rice vermicelli, any fresh herb, and any fresh veggies that you think sound good. 

I began by soaking the rice paper in some warm water to soften it (they come in dry brittle round sheets).  I just used a frying pan that was a touch larger than the rice paper sheet.  This only takes a minute, but make sure you submerge it completely to avoid crunchy non-pliable spots.  Once it was soft I placed the softened sheet on a plate and replaced it with another brittle sheet in the water (so that a new one is ready when you are ready to make another roll).  
Then you just lay the filling in the middle and roll it up.  Not really brain surgery, but here are a couple tips I've learned along the way.

Below is the order in which I assembled the rolls (clearly we were running low on cucumber) - which helped it maintain a roll shape.  I cut the cucumbers about the size I wanted the roll to be and used them as a guide for the rest of the ingredients. The shrimp on top also worked as a guide.

The rolling can take a little practice.  The first few batches I made were really wonky, but now that I'm getting a little better, this is the strategy that works for me. I fold in the the sides at the end of each roll.  Then I fold over one side - at this point it still looks pretty loose and sloppy.  Then I tightly roll it into the rest of the unfolded rice paper.  Don't worry if you pinch out some lettuce or other unruly ingredient as you roll, it will be covered by the excess rice paper. 

As you finish each roll place it in a bowl covered with a damp towel to keep the rolls from drying out.  If they dry out they stick together and break and it's a mess.  For the dipping sauce I usually use a couple tablespoons of mayonnaise, the juice of one lime, fresh ginger to taste and a dash of pepper.  But you could use ready-made salad dressing (a ginger dressing would be fantastic) or make up your own.

These unfortunately don't keep well in the fridge - so you want to assemble them right before you eat.  I don't think eating them all up should be a problem, though!  Enjoy!


  1. Great idea. I don't have Vietnamese restaurants near my house, and this would be a fun/tasty thing to have for dinner!

  2. can i just say how much i am loving your blog this week!? no pressure or anything ;)

    this is a great idea - im going to do it this weekend!

  3. I make a version of these and have found that, if you do have leftovers, they will keep better when wrapped individually in plastic wrap and then put in tupperware.