Eats, Recipes
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The secret to making Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Pork and prawn summer rolls

Vietnamese spring rolls (or summer rolls) are one of my favourite things to eat and I always order this as starter when we visit a Vietnamese restaurant.

The light, refreshing roll contrasts with a punchy sauce and I feel like I never get enough of these things. The beauty of making food at home is you can have as many pieces as you like. You can eat as many as you like for a main course without confusing your poor waiter.

I’ve made these rolls once before but it was a messy failure. My mistake was to soak the rice paper in hot water and for too long. By the time you roll up, it disintegrates and you can forget about trying to eat them with any ounce of dignity. I have found the secret which I will share with you below.

When we were eating in Hanoi, Vietnam at the start of this year, I noticed that the rice paper rolls were a tad under softened. That led me to believe that the rolls are wrapped while the paper is still papery.

Maybe you are like me when making traditional dishes. You read a bunch of recipes, then pick out the hardest bits or the bits that don’t appeal. Then you pray for the best as you attempt to make a cheat version of a dish.

Here is my cheat’s recipe.

Perfect fresh food for spring.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Summer Rolls)

Makes 16

Ingredients
16 sheets of rice paper
400g pork steak
1 tablespoon chili oil
Salt
200g prawns, cooked and shelled
10cm length of cucumber
16 large or 30ish small mint leaves
1 baby cos lettuce

Pre-roll Preparation

  1. Use a big plate or a platter to assemble all your ingredients on before you start to roll.
  2. Season the pork steaks with a little chili oil and plenty of salt.
  3. Add to a frying pan and cook on a very low heat for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once. You only want a tiny bit of colour.
  4. Remove from pan and rest for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Slice pork thinly against the grain. This makes it more tender.
  6. Remove the rubbish end slices as they aren’t as pretty. Consider them a cook’s treat!
  7. Add the good slices to the platter.
  8. Carrot: Peel and grate. Add to the platter.
  9. Lettuce: Cut off the base and wash thouroughly. Slice finely and remove the thick rib/stems.
  10. Cucumber: Peel and cut in half lengthways. Run a teaspoon down the middle to scoop out all the seeds. Chop the lengths into think half circle slices.
  11. Mint: Wash and pick leaves off stems. If using big leaves, tear in half. Keep small leaves whole.

Ready to Roll

The trick is…

  1. Start with 1 plate of cold tap water.
  2. Your rolling station is a clean tea towel that is wrapped around a chopping board. The flat, absorbent surface is perfect.
  3. Immerse 1 sheet of rice paper into the plate of water for 3 seconds only. It will not seem like it’s ready yet, but the paper will continue to soften as you fill it and even after you roll it.
  4. Set the wet sheet it on top of the tea towel and chopping board.
  5. If it is very wet, brush over lightly with a second clean teatowel.
  6. Fill with fillings in a line across the middle and a little towards the bottom, careful not to over fill. No more than half a cup of filling in total. I started with lettuce, then added cucumber (4 slices), then carrot, then pork (3 slices), then mint (1 large leaf or 2 small leaves) and finally 3 prawns.
  7. Whatever you end with will be on the top so something pretty like a row of pink prawns on top of mint is perfect.
  8. Fold the bottom edge over the filling, fold in the 2 sides and roll up.
  9. Place on a platter.

I always laugh when I discover a prepped ingredient after I’ve plated the dish. It happens more often than I can count. In the past, I’ve made baked quiche only to turn around see my neglected bowl of beaten eggs sitting on the table. This time, I had soaked a portion of vermicelli and set it aside but then completely forgot to use it. So this recipe is without vermicelli. I found these summer rolls to be filling enough without the noodles. It’s more traditional to have noodles inside though.

Punch and crunch.

Edit: My buddy Danielle from Keeping Up With The Holsbys came up with the genius trick of putting the sauce inside the rolls. No more spillage if you decide to double dip!

Punchy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Ingredients
A handful of peanuts
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon hoison sauce
1 tablespoon tamarind, dissolved in a little hot water
1 or 2 tablespoons of palm sugar (depends on how sweet you like it)
1 teaspoon of chili oil (or oil and fresh chilies)

Preparation

  1. Smash the palm sugar in a motar and pestle. Remove and add to a small ramekin.
  2. Add peanuts and salt to the mortar and pestle and crush. You don’t want to grind too fine as the crunch of the peanuts adds a fantastic texture to the sauce.
  3. Tip into the ramekin along with all the wet ingredients and mix well.

Make ahead

These rolls can be made ahead of time, refrigerated and served the next day. The refrigerator will dry out the rice paper a bit so just give them a mist with water about 10 minutes before serving. You don’t want to soak them, just give them a chance for the rice paper to be supple again.

Experiment with different ingredients and please let me know how it goes!

One is a tease, Two is a starter, Three is almost a meal, Four is a meal, Five is a meal and a bit…

Delicious Vietnam

This post is in conjuction with Delicious Vietnam run by  Anh of A food lover’s journey and Hong and Kim from Ravenous Couple. September’s Delicious Vietam event is hosted by Phuoc from Sydney, Australia on her blog Phuoc’n Delicious.

Other posts you may be interested in:

A Tale of Two Prawns

Summer rolls with surimi and nectarine

Bacon burger summer rolls

Whitianga Scallops

Prepare Ika Mata (Cook Islands raw fish salad)

51 Comments

  1. I have the rice wrappers in my pantry now. Thank you for your detailed instructions on the wrapping. Your blog is so interesting, I’m happy that I discovered it.

    • Bunny Eats Design says

      Thanks Timeforsomething and Karen. I think sometimes it is good to fail at the start. Then you forever know what NOT to do. Hope my instructions are easy to follow and you learn from my mistake! 🙂

  2. I LOVE these, and took me awhile to get the hang of it the first time a few years back. I didn’t soak the rice paper for too long – in fact when it still feels a bit hard, it’s not quite done soaking yet. You can take it out and it softens a bit more in a minute. The wrapping was the hardest part to get right but hey, at least it still tastes good even when it’s ugly!

    My boyfriend and I actually took a cooking class when i was in Hanoi recently and we made spring rolls (not the fresh type), and they taught us some wrapping tips (which I now cannot remember, but hopefully it’s been incorporated into the “common sense” part of my mind).

    • Bunny Eats Design says

      Hi Indie, we didn’t have time for cooking classes when we went to Hanoi but I wish we had now. Maybe next time 🙂

      You know, I’ve never wrapped a deep fried spring roll before. It’s quite shameful considering I probably deep fried a thousand of them when I worked at my dad’s takeaway shop. My dad was a perfectionist so he wrapped them all. I should get him to pass on his technique to me.

      Wontons however, I can do with my eyes closed 🙂

  3. I eat spring rolls all the time, since my family is Vietnamese and VN spring rolls are my cousin’s favorite Viet food ^^ You always want to quickly dip it in water and put it on your plate, load up on the veggies, noodles, & w/e else you want 🙂 My step mom was the one who always made awesome spring rolls perfect for a restaurant

    • Bunny Eats Design says

      Thanks Kathy, it sounds like the Vietnamese way is to roll your own. I guess the Western way is not to make it too hard for your guests. I bet it can be pretty fun to eat the mistakes though. 😀

  4. Chloe says

    I’ve grown up eating this my whole life, and I had to chuckle just a little bit to read of how much effort you’ve put into creating a work station and wiping off the excess water.

    I dip the paper in room temp water, put it on a plate, and by the time I’ve put all my ingredients in, all the excess water has been absorbed and it’s soft enough to roll.

    As a family we traditionally, make one, eat one, etc as we go!

    • Bunny Eats Design says

      Cool, an easier way to make summer rolls. Thanks for the tip Chole!

      “Make one, eat one sounds fun”. Do you ever lose track of how many you’ve eaten?

  5. like you, i always order this when i eat at my fave viet joint.

    it’s a deceptive dish in that it looks so simple but when you gather all the ingredients: the noodles, the herbs, the meats, the veggies and then the rice paper itself, it’s so much work! i’m not complaining, it’s worth the effort.

    your pix look delicious.

  6. Yummers! Summer rolls are our ‘go to’ dinner in the summer when we don’t want to cook. We just put all the stuff and a frying pan (since it’s the right shape) full of water on the table and roll as we go. I’ll try your sauce next time!

  7. i’m vietnamese myself and grew up making and eating spring rolls. We eat lots of variations of these rolls (beef, shrimp, pork, steamed fish, etc so don’t be afraid to get creative!), so I’d like to share with you a tip regarding the rice paper…try to find one that says or is made with tapioca. It makes the rice paper very pliable very quickly so you might have to be fast when rolling them. I also prefer hot water. Use a big bowl of hot water and dip the paper in to about the center of the paper and rotate it quickly to cover the surface. YOU DO NOT NEED TO SOAK! This is the biggest mistake inexperienced people make. Remove quickly and place on your preferred surface (mine is just a plate). As you are layering the ingredients, the paper will begin to soften, thats why you don’t need it to be soft to start, it does it on its own! Remember to roll the spring roll tightly! Soon, when you are a pro you can roll them in your hands without a plate 😉 goodluck!

  8. I love these things!! I love using the rice paper and putting other stuff in them to eat with, lol very addicting 🙂

  9. Delicious!
    Yes, one of the trick is not to soak the wrapper for too long. but I liked the ones in Vietnam better because we don’t need to soak them at all.

  10. Hi there hopped over from Delicious Vietnam recap. Just discovered your beautiful site. I love your rolls and photography it’s gorgeous. Isn’t’ it the trick a quick second or two in water then wrap?! Love being a part of Delicious Vietnam this month.

    • Bunny Eats Design says

      Thanks for dropping by Shulie and for your kind words about my photography. The photography on your site is fantastic too and it looks like we are both into much the same stuff 🙂

  11. LOL! I am constantly finding prepped ingredients on my counter after I’ve finished eating the dish and am about to clean up – glad I’m not the only one 🙂 .

    I find that different brands of rice paper wrappers need different wetting times so the first couple wettings are always a bit of an experimentation.

    Thanks for sharing your recipe. This is my first time participating in Delicious Vietnam and loving all the wonderful posts. And your rolls look beautiful!

    • Bunny Eats Design says

      Thanks Ginger and Scotch! I’ve only ever tried 1 brand of rice paper wrappers but it makes sense that they are different. I guess they will be slightly different thicknesses too.

  12. I love these spring rolls – they look delicious! And the peanut dipping sauce sounds just perfect! I wish I could download a roll or two (or four 😉 ) from the screen and try right now…
    I really love your site, and would like to invite you to try out RecipeNewZ (with Z). It’s a new recipe sharing community: you submit a photo of your dish, we publish it within minutes and link back to the recipe on your site. In less than 2 months hundreds of bloggers have already joined, and it would be great to have you on board too :-). http://recipenewz.com

  13. whats the best way to pre-make these for a party and keep them fresh ?? will they keep if you roll them the night before ?

    • Hi Lkathryn, great question. When I take these to lunch the next day, I just give them a mist with water about 10 minutes before I want to eat. The rice paper tends to dry out when in the refrigerator, but a little mist of water will rehydrate them. You don’t want to wet them, just give them a chance to be supple again. I’ll update this post with this info too.

      • Lkathryn says

        ok…made my batch for a party at work and used lettuce to keep the rolls separated so they wouldn’t stick to each other …then put a wet paper towel between the layers of rolls before putting in the fridge for the night …the party was at noon and the rolls were still great 🙂 left the paper towels in there until right before serving ….

  14. Love Vietnamese food. Have some rice paper wrappers in my pantry that have been waiting for me to get up the nerve to use them for (eep) years.

  15. Love vietnamese food too! I make a version of these too -,and the first time i made them they looked pretty scary! They taste soo good!

  16. Your recipe looks gorgeous and I love the idea of putting the sauce inside the roll. How brilliant is that? I think I will make these the next time I have a party! Thanks.

  17. I absolutely love Vietnamese spring rolls and have always been reticent to try and make them. I do have a great son-in-law who makes really great ones but I don’t see him often. Even so, I am sure he will love your recipe better than his…LOL.

    Thanks for checking out my blog. Its not as wonderful as yours. Great job!

  18. Stephanie Le says

    Pretty different recipe to my Vietnamese family’s but I’m sure every region has their own take on it. Also they’re definitely not called Spring rolls. Spring rolls are fried and usually have a Pork mince filling.

    Another tip for the rice paper is to have a simmering pan of water dip in one side and gently squeeze off the excess water and then repeat for the other side.

    Great blog!

  19. Love your snippets – the forgetfulness whilst prepping happens to me all of the time! And thanks for the rice paper tip, will keep that in mind next time.
    P.S. Thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂

  20. Your blog is gorgeous! Thanks for visiting mine. My husband is allergic to fish so I’ll have to a veg version he likes. Sauces are fantastic. Thanks for visiting and I’ll do so as well. Dee

  21. I love spring rolls. My parents would always make them when they didn’t want to cook. Anyways, my office is doing a lunch potluck and I wanted to bring something that didn’t require reheating. I never had spring rolls the day after, do you think it tastes just as good the next day?

    • Hi aylr47, yes you can make these the day before and refrigerate. The wrappers tend to dry out a little so just mist or sprinkle water over them about an hour before serving to get them supple again.

I love your comments! Your comments are like extra melted cheese on top.

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