Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Spring rolls

I’m back for more! This is my entry for this week’s Presto Pasta Night, created by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast. I had originally planned on entering my roasted mushroom lasagne, but it was so scraped together and so creamy and pale that it just didn’t feel right to enter, coming after Myriam’s stunning Chanterelle Lasagne last week. Not that the appearance prevented us from gobbling down every bit of our lasagne for lunches this week…

Ingredients for spring rolls

We’ve been having a strange summer, weather-wise. With temperature spikes after both Memorial Day and Independence Day, and then a week of cooler weather and rain on what is traditionally the hottest and driest part of the year in Oregon, it’s been hard to know what to expect. This week has been unusually humid, so after sneaking in that lasagne before the drip factor kicked in, I really wanted to make something cool and refreshing for dinner. For some reason, Vietnamese spring rolls sprang into my head, so I gave them a shot.

Spring rolls

I used a recipe from Epicurious, and stuck pretty close to it. The pasta element consisted of pouring hot water over maifun rice sticks and letting them soften up. Then I set to cooking the shrimp and julienning vegetables. I’ve never worked with rice paper before, so I was a little nervous about rolling everything up, but the spring roll skins I used (actually consisting of tapioca flour rather than rice) seemed pretty sturdy and didn’t stick too much. I just swished each sheet through some hot water for a few seconds, one at a time, and pulled them out while still a bit stiff. They softened up as I layered noodles, veggies, mint and shrimp, and didn’t tear much when I went to roll them. I do need to work on my technique, though, as they were looser than I would have liked. Since I barely made a dent in the package of skins, it would appear I’ll have lots more opportunities to practice.

Spring rolls

Shrimp Rice-Paper Rolls with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

I actually cut the amounts below in half for just the two of us. A few changes I made: I left out the shiitake mushrooms because I can only eat so many in one week. The dipping sauce, a variety of nuoc cham, originally called for jalapeno, which is too spicy for me. I also left out some of the herbs because I don’t like cilantro and my basil plants are hanging on by a thread outside in this wonky weather. Finally, the original recipe called for slicing the rolls into thirds, but it wasn’t necessary and mine would have totally fallen apart I’d tried it.

Dipping Sauce
1/2 C fresh lime juice
1/4 C sugar
3 T fermented fish sauce (nam pla)*
1 T unseasoned rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red chili flakes

Rice-Paper Rolls
1 1/2 T olive oil
4 ounces dried thin Chinese rice sticks (maifun)*
12 8- to- 9-inch round rice-paper sheets*

1 C fresh bergamot mint leaves
1 C finely shredded Savoy cabbage
1 C mung bean sprouts
1 C matchstick-size strips seeded English hothouse cucumber
1 C matchstick-size strips peeled carrot
8 ounces peeled deveined medium shrimp

For dipping sauce: Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl until sugar dissolves. Let stand at least 30 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

For rice-paper rolls: Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and sauté until pink and cooked through, about 2 minutes. Cool and split in half lengthwise.

Place rice sticks in large bowl; add enough hot water to cover. Let stand until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain. Cut into 6-inch lengths; set aside. Fill same bowl with warm water. Add 1 rice-paper sheet and turn until beginning to soften, about 10 seconds (sheet will still be a bit stiff). Remove from water and place on prep surface.

Arrange a small handful of rice noodles in a line across softened rice paper. Top with cabbage, sprouts, cucumber, carrot, shrimp, and mint. Fold bottom of each rice sheet over filling, then fold in ends and roll into tight cylinder. Place rolls, seam side down, on platter and serve with sauce. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover with damp paper towel and plastic wrap; chill.)

Source: Adapted from Epicurious.

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