Vietnamese spring rolls

To avoid any confusion, let’s get down to a brief explanation: these spring rolls would be mortified to be in the company of deep-fried, greasy rolls found in many chinese restaurants. Vietnamese spring rolls are far healthier, cleaner and fresher – the complete antithesis of the oily rolls one might be more familiar with.

I probably made about 100 of these in the past week as I was making for a crowd at a festive demonstration. Yes they can be slightly fiddly things to make but definitely worth a try. I am pretty good at making them now – practice makes perfect .

The dipping sauce is addictive.  It is also totally essential. So before you read on, don’t dare make these without making the sauce as it will be an utterly pointless exercise. It’s all about the sauce!

So with that in mind, let’s first look at the recipe for the dipping sauce;

  • 3 level tablespoons of sugar (or less, to taste)
  • 4 tablespoons of nam pla (fish sauce)
  • 4 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 clove of garlic – crushed
  • 2-3 red chillis sliced thinly 

Mix all the ingredients together and leave to marinade for at least 15 minutes.

Making the Rolls – What you need;

  • 50g thin rice vermicelli noodles
  • 8 tiger prawns (optional)
  • 1/4 cucumber cut into julienne
  • 1 carrot, julienned or coarsely grated
  • salt, pepper, sugar, a bit of rice wine vinegar (for the carrot)
  • 8 rice paper wrappers (21.5cm diameter)
  • 8 butterhead lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup of fresh mint
  • 1/2c cup of fresh coriander leaves

Soak the noodles in water as per the cooking instructions on packet. Drain and rinse.

Put the lettuce, mint leaves and coriander leaves on a plate. If the shrimps are large cut them in half. (if using)

Have the dipping sauce ready in a bowl. 

Sprinkle some salt, pepper, sugar on your cucumber and the same on the carrot but also add some rice vinegar to the carrot. This just marinates/pickles the vegetables slightly. 

Assemble all other ingredients – ie have everything in place ready to add to your rolls.

Fill a wide bowl with very hot water. Dip a rice paper into the hot water, it will soften within a few seconds. 

Remove, shake off excess moisture and put onto a clean tea towel. Lay a piece of lettuce over the bottom third of the rice paper, about a tablespoon of noodles, some cucumber and carrot julienne on top and several fresh mint leaves. 

Roll the rice paper over half way into a cylinder, then fold in the sides. If using, arrange 2 half shrimps or 3 or 4 small shrimps along the top with a few coriander leaves. Continue to roll up and press to seal. Ready!

  • My top tips!
  • Fresh spring rolls may be made several hours ahead, keep covered, with some damp paper towel.
  • Some people like to wrap the spring rolls in lettuce leaves before dipping – not necessary but nice if serving as a starter.
  • The dipping sauce can also be made in advance.
  • Super healthy and tasty lunchbox idea as well as fancy canapĂ© – so versatile!
  • Buy your noodles and rice paper in any asian store.
  • Practice makes perfect! Some will break and have to be binned – be patient.
  • Have a Vietnamese Roll Party and have everyone do a DIY job around the table – lots of fun, minimal effort! 

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