February 3, 2010
Vietnamese Spring Roll
Spring rolls are typically served as an appetizer in South East Asian Restaurants. They differ from the Thai version in a couple of ways, Vietnam version is all raw vegetables and Rice Paper is used where as the Thai version uses a wrapper more like an Egg roll but lighter. Neither are cooked but rather assembled. Although most Thai Restaurants will serve the Vietnamese version. A special thanks to my friends at Cook Illustrated Forum for the recipe for the sauce.
Except for the Rice Paper which is difficult to find other than in an Asian market, all other ingredients are very common and the one I made today was just things I had in the fridge. Pretty much use any vegetable you like not cooked, normally these are called Fresh Spring Rolls to differentiate them from the small Spring rolls that are fried.
But for the Sauce, it is really just a bunch of non cooked vegetables. The sauce is critical, but the good news is, that it isn’t hard to make.
I live in the boonies so finding an Asian market is a trick. The only one I have found is 2 1/2 hours South in Portland Maine. So I buy every package of Rice Paper in the store, it is dried and will keep forever. They come in two sizes, get the biggest one available. Use a large plate with warm water to soften Rice Paper. There is actually water and Rice paper in the picture below but you can't really see it. More on the technique later.
Sauce can be made ahead and kept in the Refrigerator. The sauce is the main ingredient of this dish without it, it is just a bunch of boring vegetables.
1 cup of White Sugar
1/2 cup Water
1/2 cup White Vinegar
2 TBS minced Garlic
1 tsp salt
Hot Pepper flakes, this is the only tricky part, it is easy to over due so start out with 1/4 tsp and add if you wish until you get the amount you and your guests like.
Grind the pepper flakes in a Mortar or a coffee grinder works good(that is what I use, I make a bunch up and leave it stored in a plastic bag. Combine ingredients in small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, stir to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to simmer and cook about 20 minutes, until a light syrup. Sometimes you may over cook and it will become too think, if so add water to desired consistency. If not used immediately, refrigerate but bring to room temperature before use.
The vegetables you choose to use is quite up to your own taste. The one made today was just what I had, I usually use Cucumbers but didn't have any and it was fine without it. Cucumbers are often used in Thai sauces as garnish. I always use Lettuce, everything else is negotiable. To the right you will see what I used today, Lettuce, Summer Squash, small florets of Broccoli, Julian carrots and Julian scallions. I often use Cucumbers and zucchini or whatever I have that is fresh.
Lie Rice paper flat on plate with warm water, push it down and flip it a few times until it gets pliable enough to roll, you will get a feel for it after a couple. Layer lettuce on the bottom and then add the rest and roll as tightly as you can get it, don't worry about it too much you will get the technique and it won't hurt much if it is loose, somethings might fall out but nothing terrible.
Use either a small bowl and spoon or a squirt bottle as in picture to apply sauce. Best when applying sauce before each bite, after all it is all about the sauce.