About Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Vietnamese spring rolls (gỏi cuốn) which translated means “salad rolls” (gỏi = “salad” cuốn = “to coil” or “to roll”) are aside from “pho” and “banh mi” one of the most famous dishes from Vietnamese cuisine.
The classic fresh Vietnamese spring rolls are made from shrimp, pork, vegetables, herbs, and rice noodles wrapped in rice paper accompanied by a dipping sauce. Like all Asian-style rolls, spring rolls, their origin is Chinese and were given the name because they were originally filled with seasonal spring vegetables.
The dish may have originated from China, but has been modified to fit Vietnamese tastes and ingredients. This recipe just shows you one version of Vietnamese spring rolls, which even in Vietnam can vary from region to region. Just use fresh ingredients that are available to you at the moment and are to your liking.
Try my Recipe for Japanese Gyozas
While ingredients can vary and using fresh and seasonal products is more important, a good quality Vietnamese rice paper is a key factor, for good Vietnamese spring rolls.
There are a lot of different kinds of rice papers and a big variety of brands.
Rice paper was originally made from a batter of slightly fermented rice, water, and salt. The batter was steamed and stretched on a cloth over a pot of simmering water into thin rounds. The rice sheets were then dried until dehydrating completely. The dried rice paper could be stored and then rehydrated again to use.
Over time, manufacturers have added tapioca to the batter to make the result thinner, easier to soften, and more pliable. The more tapioca is added the less tasty the rice paper gets in general.
Many rice paper packages are labeled as “spring roll skin” but know that that’s a term that’s technically applied to Chinese wheat-based spring rolls. The original Vietnamese rice papers are made just of rice flour, tapioca starch, water, and salt.
The Filling of the Spring Rolls
The classic authentic ingredients for fresh Vietnamese spring rolls are rice noodles, herbs, vegetables, pork, and shrimp.
The local herbs used in Vietnam are Thai basil, Vietnamese coriander (sometimes referred to as egg mint), mint, and Vietnamese fish mint (a polarizing herb that smells and tastes like fish).
Even in Vietnam, the ingredients for spring rolls vary from region to region, important is to use fresh local ingredients available to you.
The Dipping Sauce for Spring Rolls
To complete this dish you need a good dipping sauce, and each region in Vietnam has its own preferred option.
In the north they serve “nước mắm pha”, a combination of fish sauce, lime juice, garlic, chili, water, and sugar.
In central Vietnam, the preferred option is a peanut sauce called “nước lèo”.
In the south, a variety of sauces can be served. These are “tương xào” (Vietnamese fermented bean paste and soy sauce, similar to hoisin), “mắm nêm” (fermented anchovy, crushed pineapple, sugar, lemon juice, chili, lemongrass, and garlic), and “nước chắm” (fish sauce, lime, sugar, garlic, and chili).
How to roll Spring Rolls
Vietnamese Spring Rolls Recipe
- frying pan
- hand blender
- fine sieve
For the Spring Rolls
- 12 large circular rice paper sheets 22 cm Ø
- 150 g thin vermicelli rice, pea starch or mung bean
- 18 medium shrimp with shell (defrosted if frozen) about 500 g size 20/30
- 300 g pork meat loin cord, belly or loin
- 1 large carrot
- 1 cucumber
- 3 romaine lettuce hearts
- 1 big red chili
- 20 g coriander
- 20 g mint
- 1 tbsp sesame oil for the pork meat
- 1 tbsp sugar about 10 g (for the pork meat)
- 3 tbsp fish sauce (for the pork meat)
For the Peanut Sauce
- 150 g peanut butter not sweetened
- 100 g water
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar about 20 g
- 2 ½ tbsp soy sauce about 25 g
- 2 tbsp sugar or honey 20 g
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil 5 g
For the Nước Chấm Sauce
- 100 g fish sauce
- 80 g water
- 65 g sugar
- 50 g lime juice
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil 5 g
- 20 g fresh ginger peeled
- 10 g chilli whitout seeds (adjust to your liking)
- Choose one of the Dipping sauces or make the two if you want to try them both.
For the Nước Chấm Sauce
- In a small pot mix together the fish sauce, the water, and the sugar. Heat the mixture up and stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Let cool down and then add all the other ingredients. Mix everything until the ginger and the chilli are well incorporated. Strain the mixture.
For the Peanut Sauce
- Add all the ingredients and mix together until smooth. Heat up a bit if necessary (depends on the peanut butter)
Prepare the ingredients for the Spring Rolls
- Cut the pork meat in small stripes (about 1 cm) and season with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Heat up a frying pan, add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and fry the meat at high heat to get a nice caramelized color. Add 3 tablespoons of fish sauce and continue frying, stirring occasionally until the meat is nicely browned and well done. Take the meat out of the frying pan and let it cool down.
- For the shrimps, fill a medium pot with water, add a pinch of salt and bring it to a boil. When the water is boiling add the shrimps (with head and shells) and cook for 5 minutes. Take them out and cool them down in cold water until the shrimps are completely cold. Peel the shells from the shrimp.
- Lay a shrimp on its side on a chopping board. Gently press the shrimp down with one hand and use the other to slice the shrimp in half, horizontally (knife parallel to the chopping board). Repeat with the remaining shrimp.
- For the vermicelli noodles, fill a large saucepan or small pot with water, add a pinch of salt and bring it to boil on high heat.
- When the water is boiling, turn off the heat. Let the noodles sit in the hot water for about 5 to 8 minutes. Double-check the package directions to see how long they should sit in hot water as the cooking time varies across different brands. Once the noodles have softened, drain and rinse the noodles under cold water.
- Peel the cucumber and cut in half. Take out the seeds with a spoon and cut the cucumber in thin stripes.
- Peel the carrot and with the help of a peeler or a knife cut in splinters and then in thin stripes.
- Cut the chilli in half, take out the seeds and cut in thin stripes.
- Cut the stem from the lettuce and separate the leaves. Cut away very big stems.
- Pick the leaves from the coriander and the mint.
Set up your Spring Roll station
- Now you can set up your Spring Roll station. Fill a bowl or a tray big enough to soak the rice paper sheets with lukewarm water. Transfer all the vegetables, shrimp, herbs, and noodles into bowls and arrange them on your work top.
- Lay a damp kitchen towel over your work surface, for me that's the best way. Alternatively use a chopping board. Dip your hand in the water and brush water over the surface of the chopping board so that it is damp. I usually wet the surface again after every 2 spring rolls.
To roll the Spring Rolls (see the photos in the text)
- Quickly dip a sheet of rice paper in the lukewarm water to moisten the entire surface. This should take no longer than a few seconds (approx. 5 seconds).
- Lay the wet rice paper on your work surface. Place some lettuce close to the bottom edge of the rice paper. Arrange a small pinch each of noodles, carrots, cucumber in center of the lettuce leaf.
- Add some meat, some stripes of chilli and some mint and coriander leaves on top.
- Arrange 3 pieces of shrimp on the topside of the rest of the ingredients. Make sure that the orange/pink side is facing down.
- Grab the lower edge of the rice paper and lettuce and start rolling up the spring roll. Once you have reached the shrimp, fold in the left and right sides. Finish rolling up the spring roll all the way to the end.
- Serve the springrolls with the dipping sauce of your choice. If you want, cut the spring rolls in three with a sharp knife for nicer plating and easier handling.