Fresh spring rolls - up close!

Fresh spring rolls rock!

Fresh spring rolls - up close!

Fresh spring rolls - healthy and delicious.

It was a dark and stormy night…oh wait, it was actually a humid afternoon in DC years ago and I was in need of A/C and a snack. I stepped into the only place in sight – a Vietnamese restaurant – and requested the house specialty which turned out to be Vietnamese fresh spring rolls. My fascination has continued ever since.

Over the years I have visited numerous restaurants requesting the same thing: fresh rolls with mint, basil and either pork, shrimp or tofu served alongside that enticing sweet, spicy peanut sauce. Many places come close to that first taste (most notably a restaurant named Camrahn Bay which eventually burned down, not my doing of course) but some have been off the mark.

While perusing ingredients at the local Asian Foods store I decided to make my own rolls and have been “testing” ever since (turns out friends like the “testing” process and the resulting nibbles!) Below is my recipe which can really be tailored to your tastes (always happy to hear ideas about ingredients!)

A few notes:

  • Rolling these takes practice and you know the old saying…
  • Many of the ingredients are available at your local store so you might start there
  • Invite your friends over and have fun. Fresh rolls are a great group appetizer and allow for plenty of creativity!

Ingredients

  • Package of rice vermicelli (I search out the varieties made in Thailand or Vietnam, will set you back about $2)
  • Unseasoned rice vinegar
  • Package rice wrappers (9” diameter)
  • Shrimp, tofu or other filling of choice (thinly sliced pork or mushrooms)
  • Carrot, cut into matchstick pieces
  • Radish and or cucumber – cut into matchstick pieces
  • Mint
  • Thai Basil
  • Cilantro (optional)
  • Red or green leaf lettuce (chiffonade)

Take a small section of the rice vermicelli and soak in warm water (2 minutes or according to the direction). Drain and add a little vinegar (only enough for flavor.) Set aside. Note: if you want some spice, add a chopped jalapeno to the vinegar and soak the vermicelli a few seconds.  Prep the rest of the ingredients.

Pour some water into a pie pan or dish that will hold the rice wrappers. Dip the wrapper in the water, then lay flat on a cutting board or plate.

Starting with the section closest to you, layer the shimp/tofu or pork filling in a line.  Next add the carrots, radish, mint, basil and leaf lettuce. You should have about 1 1/2” of space at the bottom of the wrapper (edge closest to you.)

Take the edge of the wrapper, fold it over the filling  and then fold the roll up once.  Wrap the left and then right sides over the center. Continue to fold up and away from you.

When fully wrapped, place on a plate and cover with a moist paper towel to finish the rest.    Serve with seasoned vinegar and fish sauce + a slice of jalapeno pepper. Also goes well with a sweet, spicy peanut sauce (check back for the recipe!)

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