We did our share of cooking, eating and drinking over the 4th of July weekend, but while most Americans grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, we went the fusion route and made Asian spring rolls!
Spring rolls are a consummately refreshing, light, crispy (from the fresh vegetables) appetizer, served chilled with peanut sauce that’s appropriately spicy, depending on your tolerance for heat.
BTW, so as not to abandon all summer American traditions–we accompanied them with lots of cold beer.
This was my second attempt at spring rolls; it was spurred by my Vietnamese friend, Beth, who recently related to me how she makes them often and even allows family members and guests to fill and roll their own rolls with whatever ingredients they choose.
Do not be afraid of working with rice papers. They are very easy to soften and roll, provided you have a gentle hand, and after rolling one or two you will understand the process. Think back to the ’70s when you rolled your own…um…cigarettes. It was a no-brainer, wasn’t it?
This recipe is very loosely adapted from Cooks Illustrated. You can substitute chicken or pork for the shrimp, or you can make them vegetarian and add more vegetables. If you’re not a cilantro fan, try basil or mint leaves, or both. The peanut sauce recipe can be spicy or sweet: just add red chili sauce or hoisin to suit your tastes.
Rice noodles, also called rice vermicelli, and rice paper wrappers can be found at Asian markets. However, most major supermarkets now carry many Asian ingredients, and that’s where I found these. The rice paper wrappers were in the refrigerated section near the tortillas, and the rice noodles were with the Asian products.
Spring Rolls with Shrimp
8 round rice paper wrappers (8″ in diameter) cilantro leaves, cut from stem 3 oz. thin rice noodles (rice vermicelli) 8 oz. cooked large shrimp, halved lengthwise 2 carrots, peeled and grated on the large holes of a grater 1 jalapeno pepper, diced (optional) 1 English cucumber, cut into very thin strips about 2″ long Red leaf lettuce or Boston lettuce
Bring water to a boil in a medium pot and add rice vermicelli. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes just until noodles are tender but not mushy. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool, then drain again and place in a bowl.
Lay a clean kitchen towel on the counter; fill a pie plate with very warm water. Working one at a time, immerse rice papers into water and allow to soften for between 5 and 10 seconds. Papers will not be completely soft but that’s OK.
Place rice paper on towel. Place cilantro leaves down center of paper leaving a 1/2″ space on each side, then add a small amount of shredded carrot, jalapeno, cucumber strips, a torn piece of lettuce and 2 T. of noodles. Top with shrimp. Fold the top nearest you over the ingredients , then fold in the sides. Finally, roll up to form a tight cylinder. Place under a damp towel to keep from drying out. If you refrigerate these before serving, be sure to keep the damp towel over them or wrap them in plastic wrap.
To serve, gently cut each roll in half with a serrated knife.
Makes 8 full spring rolls, or 16 halves
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter 1/4 cup hoisin sauce (found in Asian aisle of supermarket) 1/4 to 1/2 cup warm water Red Chili Sauce (Sriracha, also found on Asian aisle. It comes in a plastic bottle with a green spout and a rooster on the front)
Place peanut butter and hoisin sauce in a small bowl. Slowly add warm water and gently whisk to thoroughly combine. Add Sriracha to taste. It’s spicy stuff, so be careful to add a little and then taste. If you don’t have Sriracha, you can add crushed red pepper flakes.
Many Vietnamese recipes call for fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, ginger, and/or soy sauce in their sauce. But daughter Elizabeth wanted a pure, spicy/sweet peanut sauce, and this one did the trick. It was also very quick and easy to stir together.
for one half spring roll without sauce