Vietnamese Style Fresh Rolls are one of my favorite summer foods. Paper-thin wrappers hold tidy bundles of fresh vegetables, herbs, rice noodles, tofu and shrimp. Add a little nuoc cham and peanut sauce, and Vietnamese Style Fresh Rolls are the perfect combination of fresh, salty, sour and sweet.
In Seattle, Vietnamese restaurants are about as ubiquitous as Starbucks – especially in our part of the city, so we eat a lot of fresh rolls, and we are pretty picky. Our favorite place to eat them is actually a Thai restaurant hidden away in a strip mall south of the city. For Marvin and me, Mali Thai sets the standard for which all other fresh rolls are judged.
Fresh rolls are one of those foods (like pizza, gyros, tandoori chicken, and pad thai) that we often assume we can’t make correctly at home. But it’s not true! With a few simple ingredients and the right technique, you can make your own delicious Vietnamese Style Fresh Rolls.
Assembling a fresh roll is similar to rolling a burrito, with one additional step. The fresh roll wrapper, which is made from rice four, must be soaked in hot water for a few minutes to soften it up. Once the wrapper is soft, simply place the ingredients in the center of the wrapper and roll it up burrito-style.
You can watch this video to see exactly how I roll Vietnamese Style Fresh Rolls… you’ll see… it is actually very easy!
The fresh rolls I made last night tasted almost exactly like our favorite rolls from Mali Thai (and they were low-fat, low-calorie, and gluten-free. Whoo Hoo!).
Spring roll skins (the rice paper wrappers used for fresh rolls) can be found in Asian markets and the Asian section of most grocery stores. While you are there, pick up a bottle of fish sauce, too. It is an essential ingredient in Vietnamese dipping sauce.
Vietnamese Style Fresh Rolls are generally considered an appetizer, but for me, a couple of fresh rolls are the perfect light summer meal.
My recipe below is just a suggestion. You can get creative with your filling, add chicken or pork, go vegetarian, or whatever suits you. Just be sure to include the cilantro and mint! Serve the rolls with a dipping sauce of your choice. Here are three good recipes to try:
- 8 Vietnamese spring roll wrappers
- 8 pieces green leaf lettuce, washed and torn into smaller pieces
- 1 small carrot, peeled and shredded
- ½ small English cucumber, peeled and sliced into 2" thin pieces
- 3 green onions, green parts only, thinly sliced
- 24 medium shrimp, cooked, tails removed
- 24 or more mint leaves
- ½ cup cilantro leaves, stems removed
- 2 cups cooked thin rice noodles
- 4 oz. baked or fried tofu, cut into 2" thin pieces
- Pour a few cups of very hot tap water into a large shallow pan or bowl. (Depending on the size of the wrappers you have purchased, a 9" cake pan works very well).
- Place a fresh roll wrapper into the pan and completely submerge it in the water. When the wrapper is soft and transparent, remove it from the water and lay it out on a clean surface.
- Sprinkle several cilantro leaves down the center of the wrapper, followed by three shrimp, some shredded carrot, cucumber, tofu, green onion, rice noodles, mint and lettuce.
- Don't over-fill the wrapper or it will be difficult to roll.
- Using both hands, carefully bring the sides of the wrapper in. Hold the sides with your fingers and use your thumbs to pull the top end of the wrapper up and over the sides. Gently pull back to tighten up the roll, then continue rolling it up. (Watch our video to see how we do it!)
- Cover the completed rolls with damp paper towels to keep them from drying out.
- Repeat the steps with the remaining wrappers.
- NOTE: If the water cools down too much, replace it with hot water to make soaking the wrappers easier.
- Cut each roll in half and serve with dipping sauce. Store the wraps for up to six hours in the refrigerator, covered with damp paper towels and plastic wrap.