Apr 12, 2014

Treat Yourself to a Vietnamese Spring Roll

I have been making this Southern Vietnam dish for years and it is still one of my favorite appetizers, they are even listed as number 30 on the World's 50 most delicious foods compiled by CNN Go in 2011. If you haven't tried them, then you are in for a treat. They are very easy to make, and worth the effort. 

So what is a Vietnamese Spring Roll (Goi cuốn in Vietnamese)? Goi cuốn is traditionally made with ingredients consisting of pork, prawn, vegetables, and rice vermicelli (thin noodles made from rice, and are sometimes referred to as rice sticks, but they should not be confused with cellophane noodles, which is an Asian type of vermicelli not made from rice). Everything is wrapped up like a burrito in a Vietnamese bánh tráng (commonly known as rice paper). They are served at room temperature (or cooled) and are not deep fried or cooked on the outside, therefore they are low in fat and very good for you, not to mention delicious. 

So now you are asking yourself where can I find these ingredients? Because of its popularity, the Asian ingredients are usually found in the Asian section of your grocery store. We can even find these ingredients on our small island of Moloka'i, here in Hawaii, at Friendly Market.

To see what some of the ingredients look like, or to order them online, visit this site. To watch a Vietnamese chef, Helen Le, make a similar recipe watch this video. The ingredients for this dish are easy to find. There are many, many stuffing variations you can play around with depending on your taste, from tofu, to imitation crab, pork belly, etc. For a Hawaii twist on the spring roll check out a previous story I wrote "Fresh Spam Spring Roll". Here is the basic recipe that I use for Vietnamese spring rolls with two different sauces:

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls
Ingredients for shrimp spring rolls:
8, 5-inch round rice paper wraps
8 Bibb or leaf lettuce leaves torn or chopped
1 cup cooked rice vermicelli
1/2 cup shredded peeled carrots
1/2 cup julienned, almost ripe, mango
1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves (or Italian basil if you can't find Thai)
1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
12-18 shrimp
salt and black pepper
lime wedges for garnish (optional)

Ingredients for (nước chấm) dipping sauce:
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 cup water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1-2 Thai chili (or I use a drop or two of "hot chili oil" because Thai chili are not found on Moloka'i, careful it's HOT!)

Ingredients for hoisin peanut sauce:
3/4 cup natural-style creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 1/2 medium limes)
4 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons chile-garlic paste
1 medium garlic clove, mashed to a paste
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Cook the rice vermicelli according to the package instructions (basically cooked in boiling water for 2 minutes). When done remove the vermicelli and strain. It'll save some time later if you save the bowl of hot water.

Meanwhile grill the shrimp, seasoning with salt and pepper (or poach or broil, whatever). When they cool slightly, cut them in half length-wise.

While they're cooking, julienne the mango with a mandolin if you have one, otherwise cut into strips with a knife. Shred the carrots.

Now place a damp towel on a flat surface. Dip a sheet of rice paper into the bowl of hot water you saved from cooking the vermicelli. Otherwise fill a bowl, or skillet large enough to dip the rice paper with hot water. Keep the rice paper in the water for 3 or 4 seconds, then remove and lay on the damp towel. The rice paper will get pretty soft so be careful.

Spread a lettuce leaf, carrots, mango, Thai basil and cilantro leaves, rice vermicelli, and shrimp on the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the rice paper. Fold up the bottom edge over the fillings and then fold in the sides like you're making a burrito. Then roll tightly over. Don't over stuff!

To make the nước chấm dipping sauce, mince the garlic and Thai chilis. In a medium-sized bowl, add the fish sauce, sugar, vinegar or lemon juice, and water, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the garlic and chilis and stir gently to combine.

To make the hoisin peanut sauce, simply mix all of the ingredients together.

Cut each roll into 2 or 3 pieces and serve with lime wedges and your choice of dipping sauce. Makes 8 rolls.

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