I adore Vietnamese rice paper rolls and since visiting Vietnam a the end of last year I love them even more. They are pockets of vibrant freshness that are so healthy your halo starts shining the minute you pop one in your mouth. For this recipe I have kept them vegetarian – although I do love prawns in them too. The important thing is to add variety to give enough crunch and flavour. You can literally clear out your fridge to make them. I have gone in a vegetable salad direction here and included romaine (cos) lettuce leaves too.
While in Vietnam we got to see how rice noodles were made which was fascinating and rice paper sheets are made in a similar way. A kind of thick white paste is made from rice ground up soaked rice and water which is cooked French-crepe style on large flat material sheets that have been pulled tightly over boiling water. This cooks them very gently for about 30 – 45 seconds and a wide lid is placed over them. They are then rolled off to dry in the sun on bamboo mats that resemble stretchers before being cut into noodles by machines. The markings of the bamboo can be seen imprinted on the rice paper sheets.
In Vietnam they use mint and Vietnamese basil very liberally, so I’ve add a few leaves of mint to each roll. We can’t find Asian basil easily here and I don’t think regular basil works as well, so I used cilantro (coriander) instead. Stalks and all. The herbs give so much freshness they literally liven these rolls up. The rest of the ingredients can be whatever you like. Cucumber cut into strips, carrots cut into julienne, red pepper, bean sprouts and lettuce made up mine. Vermicelli rice noodles give the rolls some structure, so definitely consider adding a small handful too.
The very best part about Vietnamese rolls is the dipping sauce. It needs to be packed with flavour. Dont consider soya sauce on its own as this is too salty and one-dimensional in flavour. When making up Asian dishes always consider the crucial elements of sweet, salty, acid and heat. Balance these out to your taste preference and you are winning. My foodie friend Lori makes a dipping sauce with equal parts rice vinegar to sugar, but I opted for 3:1 ratio instead. Ginger and chilli got added for aromatics and heat, with fish sauce giving it a salty kick. Add as much or as little of the last few ingredients to suit your preference. My sauce was extremely potent so I tempered it with a little water, so play around. Just remember the rolls kind of suck up the sauce and they are fairly bland to start off with so really need the pungency.
You can sprinkle a few black sesame seeds over the dampened rice roll to give added crunch and visual appeal and these make great party food served on platters. Perfect for vegan and vegetarians.
~cooks notes: Vietnamese rice paper sheets can be bought at most Asian supermarket and last for ages store in your cupboard. I’ve used palm sugar because I love it more than words can say. It is so damn delicious and I can eat it like candy. Use regular granulated sugar if you can’t find.
Vietnamese summer vegetable rolls: (make according to desired quantity)
- Vietnamese rice paper sheets
- carrots cut into Julienne
- cucumber thinly sliced and then cut into strips
- bean sprouts
- red or yellow pepper cut into strips
- romaine / cos lettuce leaves cut to size
- fresh mint leaves
- fresh coriander leaves and stalks
Dipping sauce: – this will make enough for about 14 – 16 rolls
- 3/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup grated or crushed palm sugar
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 1/4 chilli finely sliced (or as much as you like)
- 3 Tbsp water (or more if desired)
To make the sauce:
In a small pot bring the sugar and rice vinegar to the boil, stirring constantly to dissolve quickly. I find grating the sugar helps to speed up this process. You don’t want too much of the rice vinegar liquid to reduce otherwise it makes it too strong. Remove from the heat as soon as its dissolved and add the ginger and chilli. Allow this to infuse as it cools
Add the fish sauce and water as needed to adjust the seasoning.
To make the rolls:
Have all your filling components ready in bowls around your work area. Soak the vermicelli noodles in boiling water for a few minutes until softened (follow the package instructions). Drain and refresh under cold water.
Have a large bowl of tepid water standing by to dip the rice paper sheets.
Working quickly, dip the rice paper sheet into the water very quickly and then place this on your working surface. You can also work on a dampened tea towel. Layer your fillings in a sausage shape towards the bottom of the sheet and start rolling it up as tightly as you can. Fold in the side bits (like a burrito) as you roll up. I find placing the rolls on a bed of lettuce leaves prevents sticking to the plate.
*tip – put your lettuce leaf down first followed by the noodles. They sort of contain it and help the rollling process. The noodles, if placed at the bottom of the pile, can move around making rolling a little more difficult.
I’ve played around with rice paper wraps before and my favourite being chipotle prawn and guacamole rice paper wraps which was a little left of centre, but hey, isn’t that what blogging is supposed to be about?
Looking back on very old posts make me realise how far I’ve come on this wonderful food blogging journey. So here is a peek back over the years into what I was making around this time over the years:
1 year ago: broccoli pilaf with pomegranate and almonds
2 years ago: fennel & radish salad with lemon & olive oil
3 years ago: carrot tart tartin
4 years ago: sundried tomato and parmesan cheese scones
5 years ago: asparagus, blue cheese & parmesan quiche
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