Vietnamese

Skip the Takeout and Make Vietnamese Spring Rolls at Home

by:
August  5, 2015

Put down the phone: Betty from Le Jus D'Orange is translating the takeout favorite you're about to order into a recipe you can cook in your own kitchen. 

Today: Make those Vietnamese spring rolls you're craving in the hot weather—and customize them any way you want.

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During the summer, whether I’m enjoying the dry heat in California or stepping out into a moist blanket in Boston, I always crave one dish: gỏi cuốn, fresh spring rolls made of pork, shrimp, fresh herbs, crunchy vegetables, and vermicelli, all wrapped up in bánh tráng, or rice paper. 

These rolls, which you can find on the appetizer menu in most Vietnamese restaurants, have been around for years and in Vietnam, even the rice paper is made from scratch. Especially in the hotter seasons, there’s something irresistible about the freshness of the roll. But even if you aren’t making the rice paper from scratch, you can still achieve a refreshing, cooling roll at home.

  

One of the best parts of this dish is that it’s completely customizable—every restaurant has its own rendition. Prawns are the traditional filling, but here I use shrimp. Some people omit the pork for a lighter roll; some add mung bean sprouts for some extra crunch. I’ve also had spring rolls with shredded mango or shiso leaves.

In this version, I use thinly sliced lean pork, lemongrass-poached shrimp, vermicelli, carrot, cucumber, mint, Thai basil, cilantro, and garlic chives. You may choose to omit some of these ingredients, but I urge you to include Thai basil if possible: I’m not going to claim to be an authority on Vietnamese food, but I do know that the distinctive taste of Thai basil gives the spring rolls a stamp of authenticity. You should be able to find Thai basil in most Asian supermarkets, but if you can’t, omit basil altogether and use additional cilantro, mint, or shiso in its place. 

The rolling method varies as well: Sometimes the rolls are are open-ended, with garlic chives poking out; sometimes only one end is left open; and sometimes both ends are closed, as shown here. 

There are two steps for ensuring a successful spring roll: mis en place and properly moist rice paper. Prep all of the ingredients before hand so that you have everything at the ready for assembling the spring rolls; the part of this recipe that takes the longest isn’t the actual assembly but the ingredient preparation.

Once your filling is set to go, you'll dip the rice paper in warm water until it’s pliable but not super soft. I let the rice paper soak for about 10 to 15 seconds so that it has some structure but can be bent easily. I then lay it on my rolling surface (a wooden cutting board), where the water will continue to soak through the rice paper as the roll is assembled so that it's the perfect consistency by the time I've finished rolling. 

More: Intimidated by rolling spring rolls? This step-by-step tutorial can help with that.

 

Vietnamese Pork and Shrimp Spring Rolls (Gỏi Cuốn)

1/2 pound pork (loin, shoulder, and/or belly)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 stalks lemongrass, crushed (optional)
4 ounces rice vermicelli
1 package (12 ounces) 8 1/2-inch rice paper wrappers
6 leaves lettuce, iceberg or romaine, torn in half
1 cup carrots cut into matchsticks
1 cup cucumbers cut into matchsticks
Fresh mint
Fresh Thai basil
Fresh cilantro
Garlic chives

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Betty Liu

8 Comments

Bibi August 16, 2015
I too haven't made these in a while but I adore them and yours look awesome!
 
Nik S. August 12, 2015
Betty, these look gorgeous! I have a Vietnamese coworker who brings spring rolls to work and she puts chives/scallions like you mentioned at one end of the roll. She also wraps them with cling film so they don't stick.
 
girlwithaknife August 9, 2015
How far in advance can I make these?
 
Bella B. August 5, 2015
I haven't made these in a while. They are always a hit.<br /><br />http://www.xoxobella.com
 
ym August 5, 2015
Like HalfPint, I dip and rest but I rest on a plate with a thin layer of oil (wipe with oil moistened paper towel) while lining up the filling. The oil minimizes sticking and tearing.
 
Deborah S. August 5, 2015
I make these without the rice vermichelli and serve with a homemade peanut sauce. The perfect summer lunch!
 
Leslie S. August 5, 2015
BETTY! These look GREAT! And the gif!!! Wowowow making these asap!
 
HalfPint August 5, 2015
I would like to add an alternative to prepping the rice paper:<br /><br />dip the rice paper quickly into water and get it completely wet, but still rigid. Gently shake off any excess water. Transfer to your flat work surface (plate, cutting board, etc). Leave for about 10-15 seconds to let the water absorb and soften the rice paper. I have found that letting the rice paper soften in the water makes the rice paper difficult to handle and is not really necessary. Just dip, shake, and lay on a flat surface. But the most important is the quality of the rice paper. The good stuff may cost only pennies more, but it makes a successful roll that doesn't burst so easily. The good stuff should have a slightly chewiness that yields to your bite without the roll falling apart.