Yes, I am referring to the rolls make with the rice paper. The rice paper itself is labeled “rice spring roll wrappers”. But recently I ordered Vietnamese spring rolls out at a restaurant… and got served skinny greasy rolls with a heavy wheat crust, with not much room inside for anything tasty.
Eh. Somewhere I’d read that summer rolls contained only uncooked ingredients, and the spring rolls have some cooked components. So, now I ask. Rice paper?? Or not??
I first attempted these about three years ago – they tasted great but I could not for the life of me begin to assemble them. I tried again for my herbal aficionado friends this past September, and after the first two attempts at rolling them, the rest came out ranging from serviceable to good. Unfortunately, I didn’t think I had time for the camera. Soooo…. I made them again last night, although the overall ingredients the September venture were better than last night.
Not doing my standard write-up here…
September’s list o’ ingredients:
- Crispy lettuce, Romaine or other head. No, I didn’t use iceberg, but it’s a possibility.
- Rhode Island Red shrimp. OR thinly sliced pork belly, pastured and local. See below.
- White yam noodles in the shape of spaghetti. (Pasta Zero is one brand). Rinse and bring to a boil in a sauce pan, about 2 minutes. Drain, allow to cool, pat dry.
- slivered English cucumber segments. If you use regular cukes from the supermarket, they’ll have more seeds – you can remove those. I always peel ANY waxy cuke completely for any culinary purpose.
- Greens from green onions/scallions, chopped about 1.5-2 inches in length.
- Mung bean sprouts, you can quickly blanch them if desired.
- Watercress, chopped, sprigs and all.
- Cilantro and Mint, chopped.
Wednesday (October’s) list o’ ingredients:
- Leaf lettuce. It is a bit more limp, but it was a case of use or dispose… Opt for crispy!
- Gulf shrimp, I only bought enough for the photography, and at least it is not factory farmed somewhere. Rhode Island Reds are out of season now. OR thinly sliced pork belly, pastured and local. See below.
- White yam noodles in the shape of spaghetti. (Pasta Zero is one brand) Rinse and bring to a boil in a sauce pan, about 2 minutes. Drain, allow to cool, pat dry.
- Mung bean sprouts, you can blanch them if desired.
- Thin sliced shiitake mushrooms. Pan fry or boil, cool down and pat dry.
- Cilantro, chopped.
Oh, if you have the time to find / drive to, add Thai basil to the cilantro and/or mint.
The word, basically, you have a lot of options in this dish. AND if you want to make this dish vegetarian, I’d suggest thinly sliced water chestnuts for the crunch, instead of the pork or the shrimp. And perhaps extra mushrooms, maybe enoki or such!
I am not posting times for this recipe. I’m not fast. When you get used to making these, you’ll laugh at my snail-speeds. Anyhow, here is a series of how to roll up the pork rolls
Pork belly Vietnamese Summer Rolls:
I recommend pork belly from a local pastured farming source, as this is somewhat fatty, and fat retains unwanted chemical additives. Pork belly is traditional. You can also use any thin sliced bits of pork that you wish. (Pork belly is usually found in groceries smoked into “bacon”. This is simply the same stuff, not smoked or seasoned.)
Boil the thin slices of pork for ten minutes. Remove, pat dry, and then pan fry for another 3-5 minutes on medium high heat without additional oil (if this a fatty section, like the pork belly). Removing all water (patting dry) is your friend. Watch and flip. Don’t burn, but brown. Allow to cool.
If you are making shiitake or anything else that needs some cooking, do so now, and allow to cool. Pat anything dry from oil or from water… stays better in the rice wrap, and keeps the lettuce and such crisp.
Here are the steps for rolling. I admit back in September I did an initial right to left roll at first, not really ergonomic for me. I found the best way was to roll from me towards the “north” as it were. Anyhow, sit down with all your ingredients and make yourself comfortable. Have a bowl of water nearby, wider than the diameter of your rice rolls. They say warm, but it worked just as well when it dropped to room temperature. Maybe a little slower, but that fits my rolling speed…
I love my portable bamboo cutting board!
The Pork Roll:
Vietnamese Shrimp Summer Rolls:
That was the pork. NOW, here are a few shots for rolling up the shrimp. If you can’t find the perfect variety (Red Rhode Island shrimp, also found off the coast of the Carolinas…) I did obtain a 1/3 pound of wild caught Gulf shrimp simply to create this post. I’m not really crazy about Gulf shrimp these days, but I really wanted to have something available for people making the traditional summer rolls, and shrimp is very often included… AND, better than farmed shrimp. For Rhode Island reds, add to boiling water, and cook NO MORE THAN one minute, remove and drain and rinse under COLD tap water. For Gulf shrimp, a minute and a half is fine. The larger they are, more leeway.
I peel and slice the shrimp bilaterally down their center, removing the vein, and if they are of a large size, I cut them in half for use in these rolls. Allow to chill.
The Shrimp Roll:
You can put just about anything you want into these rolls; I prefer to focus on foods that one can find in Indochina.
In the above, either the pork or the shrimp are the focal elements – I can see using thin-sliced water chestnuts, but for a splash of color, how about baby corn, sliced thin, and arranged so that the kernels face out? Or, perhaps, for more vibrancy, some red bell pepper slivers?
I didn’t include this time; I had used two parts “Chinese dumpling sauce” to one part rice vinegar to a good splash of sesame oil. An authentic dipping sauce is peanut butter with hoisin sauce and some water, with optional red pepper flakes. I had forgotten to bring hoisin sauce up to my new home… Less traditionally, but I’m very fond of it, is Nuoc Cham dipping sauce, and I will provide the recipe for that, shortly. In a week or two. At any rate, it is my ultimately favorite dipping sauce for any type of rice-based roll.
These rolls are good the day of making. I don’t recommend saving them for future dates. They will hold in the fridge for a few hours. If you are bringing them somewhere, I’d put parchment paper between layers. They are best eaten with fingers.