I’ve had many a spring roll (aka ‘salad roll’) in my life and, to be honest, they are hit and miss.
Just the other day, for example, I was in the deli of one of our local ‘green’ grocery stores and picked up some spring rolls; I was far from impressed. Wayyyy too many noodles and lettuce, not enough fresh herbs or shrimp, and the sauce that accompanied it was nothing more than gloop I could have done without. The overall package was dry, starchy, and flavorless.
That experience is why I’m sharing this recipe with you today… MY version of the spring roll. It’s a fusion between the traditional Vietnamese style and my Guamanian ‘island-style’ flavors. And, call I tell you something? They are hands-down some of the best spring rolls you’ll eat outside of an authentic Vietnamese restaurant.
First, let’s talk wrapper.
Vietnamese spring rolls are not fried – they are made with a thin, translucent rice wrapper that you basically rehydrate to use. (If you are gluten-free, be careful when you buy your wrappers because there are wheat ones on the market. The rice ones, however, are gluten-free.) They look like this:
Next, let’s talk fillings.
The beauty of a spring roll is its freshness. Instead of a significant amount of the flavor coming from the wrapper (like with fried egg rolls or lumpia), the rice wrapper is really just a barely there delivery system for all the goodness you fill it with. So, I like to fill mine with fragrant choices that will get my senses tingling:
- fresh mint and basil leaves
- diced green onions
- ribbons of cucumber and carrots
(Note: I didn’t have any lettuce on hand when we made these last night, so we went sans lettuce… and it wasn’t a big deal at all.)
I also like to get a flavor punch from the addition of marinated, grilled meat or seafood.
Finally, I have to throw my ‘rebel’ spin on it and, instead of using the traditional bean threads (which are way too starchy for me), I use quinoa. Just plain quinoa cooked in water. (My kids prefer the bean threads, so I do make them for their rolls.)
Once you prep and gather all the essentials, it’s time for assembly:
1. Place a wet paper towel flat on a large plate. This will be your wrapping surface.
2. Next to your wrapping surface, fill a pie plate with warm water (as warm as your fingers can stand it).
3. Dip a dry wrapper into the water and lightly rub in circular motion for about 8-10 seconds; flip over and repeat. (NOTE: You want it to be a little ‘al dente’ (for lack of a better word) because it will continue to soften on top of the paper towel as you assemble the roll. It should be soft, but not totally limp.)
4. Lay the softened wrapper on top of your paper towel, gently massage the entire surface so totally flat, and then begin to layer whatever your heart desires. You’ll want to leave about an inch of space on the left and right sides of the mound.
5. To roll: fold in each side, pull up the bottom over the mound of yumminess, and then grasp the mound and begin to roll upward over the remaining flat portion of the wrapper.
Once the spring roll is rolled, the next question is this: what do you serve it with?
Yes, you could eat it without any dipping sauce and, while good, it would honestly taste a little blah – kinda like a bowl of salad without anything dressing it. I’m a big believer that spring rolls need dipping sauce.
There are two sauces I love to use:
First: Sesame Soy Vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 TBSP chili paste
- 1 TBSP sesame oil
- 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 green onion, diced
Whisk all ingredients together and set aside
Second: Coconut Peanut Garlic Sauce
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 2 heaping TBSPs of natural peanut butter (‘natural’ means it should be nothing more than peanuts and salt)
- 1 lime – juice and zest
- 1 TBSP soy sauce
- 1 TBSP fish sauce
- 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
- 1 clove of garlic, diced and smashed with the back of a fork
- Turn your stove onto medium heat and preheat a saucepan.
- Add coconut milk, peanut butter, and smashed garlic to hot pan and gently whisk until smooth.
- Add lime juice, zest, grated ginger, soy sauce, and fish sauce; whisk until incorporated.
- Turn off heat; set aside.
Spoon a little sauce onto the roll before each bite. (I like spooning better than dipping because you don’t lose any of your filling into the dip.)
By the way, a final note: these sauces go way beyond the spring rolls. The vinegrette is great for cabbage salad or for marinating cucumbers in… and the peanut sauce is amazing on chicken skewers (think chicken satay), as a dip for grilled prawns, etc.
Happy Thursday everyone!