Spring rolls were not something I cared about much until we landed in Vietnam. As the name suggests, this is a staple for the Vietnamese people. No meal is complete in Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi without the ubiquitous spring roll. There are basically two versions. The fried version of the spring roll is what most people have tried or know about. I am going to talk about the fresh version which is still a hidden gem. One could make these spring rolls with vegetarian or non-vegetarian fillings. In Vietnam, this was always made with seafood or meat. It’s quite versatile and you can decide on your kind of filling. I have tried both vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions with equal success. It depends on who you are catering to. I personally like the spring rolls made with fresh seasonal vegetable, mushrooms, paneer and even sliced avocado. Initially, the taste was a bit bland despite using the flavourful dipping sauce Nuoc Mam. I then started pickling the vegetables to give a flavour burst in the mouth. The other unique aspect of these spring rolls is that they look colourful, vibrant and adds character to a lunch or dinner spread. Be sure to wrap the spring rolls in wet cloth if you plan to serve them later. It helps retain moisture and keep the rice paper soft. So, all the best and happy fooding around with fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls.
- 7 – 8 Rice Paper sheets
- 1 cup cooked Rice Vermicelli noodles or Meifun
- 1 cup torn Lettuce, rib removed
- 2 medium Carrots, peeled and cut into long julienne
- 1 medium Red Bell Pepper cut into long julienne
- 1 medium Cucumber cut into long julienne
- 1 cup thinly shredded Red Cabbage
- 1/2 cup Bean Sprouts
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped mint
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped basil
- In a pot of boiling water cook the rice vermicelli noodles for 1 -2 mins. Switch off and soak the noodles in the hot water for another 2 – 3 mins. Check the noodles at regular intervals as they should not be overdone. Drain, rinse under cold water. Sprinkle some oil so that the noodle doesn’t stick to each other. Keep aside.
- Cut, prepare and keep ready all the vegetables. Prior to assembling the spring roll take a wet and clean lint-free kitchen towel over a ceramic plate or simply wet the surface of the chopping board and use it for assembling the spring rolls. Keep a bowl of light lukewarm water to dip the rice papers one at a time. Keep the rice vermicelli and the herbs like cilantro, basil near and handy.
- To assemble, first dip the rice paper in the bowl of lukewarm water for a few seconds and take off to put it on the wet kitchen towel or on the damp surface of the chopping board. Leaving about 1 to 1.5 inches cover the lower portion of the rice paper with some of the lettuce, followed by a fistful of rice vermicelli. Next stack it up with the carrot, cucumber and bell pepper julienne. Sprinkle the herb mix according to taste.
- Now fold the lower edge of the rice paper over the filling. Hold and stretch the softened rice paper firmly so that the filling is compactly enclosed. Fold over the smaller two open sides in an attempt to seal and enclose them. Gently roll the rice paper along with the filling till the very end. Make sure to support the filling with your fingers in an attempt to ‘tuck’ them and keep them tightly in place, specially while rotating the rice paper.
- If the rice paper softens or wrinkles too quickly, its more likely that the lukewarm water is more hot than required. Add some cold water to the bowl before assembling the next Fresh Spring Roll.
- Repeat with the other rice papers. Cover finished spring rolls with damp kitchen towels to keep them soft and moist, until ready to eat. Serve the Fresh Spring Rolls with authentic Nuoc Mam sauce or can substitute it for a peanut sauce. Another fine alternative is the hoisin dipping sauce, which is nothing but hoisin sauce mixed with water.
- Sometimes the wooden board surface might be very porous causing the rice paper to stick to it. If that’s the case, try using a plastic cutting board or even a large ceramic plate instead. I like using the larger rice papers about 8.5 inches in diameter as they hold more filling.
Being an Indian I sometimes found the vegetable inside the spring roll just a little bland to my taste. Once I started making the rolls of my own, I begun pickling some of them like the ones of bell peppers, carrots and cucumbers for 30 – 60 mins in some vinegar, salt, sugar and water. Gives a burst of taste to the vegetables used.
- I often play around with the combination of the filling, adding vegetables like sliced avocado, mushrooms or even tofu. One ingredient which is not used traditionally in the Vietnamese fresh Spring Rolls filling, but I tend to invariably use in my ones are the not -so hot large fresh red chillies. De-seed them, chop them and throw them in the filling for that mild spicey kick!
Other filling ingredient ideas:
- Sliced Mushrooms
- Cooked, shredded Chicken
- sliced Avocado
- Romaine Lettuce leaf
- Serving Size: 4