The next dish in our series is the spring roll, a super simple preparation – once you get the knack for rolling the rice paper! Spring rolls got their name from the fact that they are often a big part of Spring Festivals in Northern and Eastern China. They are now found in most parts of the world, with each region preparing them slightly differently, with ingredients ranging from shrimp and bean sprouts to chopped egg or ham, and sauces from fish sauce to soy to the preferred ketchup and hot mustard found in Mexico.
Spring rolls are either deep-fried or served fresh. Rice paper wraps are soaked to make them pliable, and then rolled around a variety of ingredients. The roll is served with a dipping sauce, often fish sauce with lime and chili, or a plum sauce or hoisin.
In Vietnam, the most popular spring roll is called cha gio, it is fried in peanut oil, and served with a spicy chili and lime sauce. The filling is usually a mix of ground shrimp and pork, mouse ear or wood ear mushrooms, rice vermicelli, and thinly sliced carrot to keep it crunchy and fresh.
Fresh Spring rolls are just as popular with many, especially home cooks who don’t feel up to pulling out the old deep fryer or sloshing around with a wok. Known as guoi cuon, these are usually larger than cha gio, and served cold or at room temperature, also with a side sauce for dipping. Guoi Cuon are also made with rice paper wraps, but the filling is a little different, often whole, cooked shrimp, shredded chicken, or pork along with tofu, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers and fresh herbs like cilantro, mint and Thai basil.
Here are two of our favourite recipes for Spring rolls, one hot and crispy, the other cool and fresh. With choices like this, how can you go wrong?
This recipe for hot and crispy Spring Rolls comes to us from Saveur.com
makes 40 rolls
In this recipe from Saveur, kohlrabi is used in place of carrots making for an interesting spin on the classic roll.
2 oz. vermicelli bean threads
1/4 cup dried cloud ear mushrooms
1 lb. ground pork
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and minced
1 small kohlrabi, trimmed, peeled and
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
40 triangular rice-paper wrappers
(rounded edge about 9″)
1 head leaf lettuce, washed and separated
2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
Fresh mint leaves
- Place cellophane noodles in a medium bowl, cover with hot water and set aside until soft, about 20 minutes, then drain and coarsely chop. Meanwhile, place mushrooms in a separate bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside for about 10 minutes, then drain, squeeze dry, and mince.
- Combine noodles, mushrooms, pork, onions, and kohlrabi in a bowl. Mix well, stir in egg, and season with salt and pepper.
- To assemble, fill a bowl with hot water, then soak 1–2 wrappers until just pliable, 15–30 seconds. Place softened wrappers on a dish towel, rounded edge towards you. Place 1 tbsp. filling 1″ from edge, then fold edge over filling, fold sides in, and roll tightly. Repeat process, soaking and filling remaining wrappers; change water as necessary.
- Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Fry rolls a few at a time, turning to crisp evenly, 3–5 minutes. Drain. Arrange rolls, lettuce, cucumbers, and mint on a large plate. To eat, wrap each roll, with desired garnishes, in a lettuce leaf, then dip into Nu’ó’c Châ´M (Dipping Sauce).
4 ounces glass noodles
12 spring roll wrappers
24 cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp, halved lengthwise (about 1 pound)
1 cup Thai basil leaves
1 cup, packed, finely shredded Napa cabbage
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1/4 cup chopped palm sugar (or brown sugar)
Juice of 2 limes (1/4 cup)
1/3 cup fish sauce
2 scallions, minced
- Place noodles in a heatproof baking dish, cover with hot water, soak 8 to 10 minutes, drain, and rinse under cold water.
- Soak spring roll wrappers in tepid water for 10 seconds or until pliable. Remove from water and transfer to a clean dishtowel. Place 4 shrimp halves, cut side up, in a straight row across lower third of spring roll skin. Top shrimp with a few basil leaves, a few tablespoons of shredded cabbage, a pinch of carrots, and 1/3 cup rice noodles.
- Carefully lift edge of spring roll skin nearest you up and over filling. Fold sides over filling and continue to roll away from you until edges are sealed. Transfer summer roll to a platter, seam side down. Cover with a damp paper towel, and continue making remaining rolls.
- For the dipping sauce whisk garlic, jalapeno, sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, and scallions to combine. Transfer to dipping bowls and serve with summer rolls.