It’s hard not to taste summertime when you bite into a tender yet crisp summer roll. The crispness comes from the vegetable filling, for these classic Vietnamese treats are not fried – rice paper skins are soaked briefly in warm water which softens the skins enough to roll them around an assortment of fresh ingredients. I like to fill them with cooked shrimp, al dente rice stick noodles and an array of fresh herbs and veggies – mint, basil, cilantro, shredded cabbage, carrots and cucumber sticks for starters. Feel free to swap with your favorite ingredients – shredded chicken, avocado and thinly sliced bell peppers make suitable substitutes.
There is a small Vietnamese restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri that gives customers the option of rolling summer rolls at the table. The process is quite fun, but the first step is a necessary one – make sure all of the ingredients are prepped ahead of time, and have them at arm’s length before the rolling begins. Once the sheets of rice paper are softened in water you won’t have time for slicing and dicing.
Store the wrapped rolls in a dish or plastic container that’s roomy enough to hold them without touching. Place a damp paper towel in the bottom of the container to keep the rolls moist. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.
- 24 medium shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled and deveined
- 4 ounces rice vermicelli (rice stick noodles)
- 12 large rice paper wrappers
- 24 basil leaves (Thai or Italian)
- 24 mint leaves
- 12 sprigs fresh cilantro
- 2 cup finely shredded napa cabbage
- 1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into long thin strips
- 1 cup julienned or shredded carrots
- Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until bright pink and just opaque, about 1 1/2 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water until cool. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and place on a cutting board. Cut shrimp in half horizontally. Place in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to wrap.
- Meanwhile, place noodles in a heatproof baking dish, cover with hot water, soak 8 to 10 minutes, drain, and rinse under cold water.
- Arrange all remaining ingredients in bowls around prep area.
- Place a clean, damp kitchen towel on a work surface. Place 1/2 inch of cool water in a pie plate. Working with 1 wrapper at a time, completely submerge the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, 10-15 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the towel.
- Working quickly, place 4 shrimp halves, cut side up, in a straight row across lower third of spring roll skin. Top shrimp with two basil leaves, two mint leaves, a sprig of cilantro, a few tablespoons of shredded cabbage, a few cucumber sticks, a pinch of carrots, and 1/4 cup rice noodles.
- Carefully lift edge of spring roll skin nearest you up and over filling. Fold sides over filling if desired and continue to roll away from you until edges are sealed, rolling as tightly as possible without tearing the wrapper. Transfer rolls to a platter, cover with a damp paper towel, and continue building remaining rolls.
This recipe originally appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of Edible Tulsa magazine. Click here to read the entire issue!