This post is because I love spring rolls. And because I promised Natalie of Gluten Free Mommy that I’d get on it sooner rather than later. So, Natalie – here’s to you! Happy spring roll making!
And.. let me add… a THANK YOU to Ginger from GFinGF for being such an awesome blogger-buddy. Thanks for your kindness and open heart. I’ve sincerely appreciated your joyful person and calming tips!
Spring rolls are really easier to make than they look – and incredibly versatile as well! Once you have all of your ingredients lined up, you’re ready to go.
Maybe the most difficult part of people is figuring out what they need to buy in order to have the spring rolls they like/remember from a favorite restaurant. It’s important to remember that there are as many variations of spring rolls as there are people who love them. I’m including directions for a simple version with a nice twist that my friend Gaby included in her spring rolls when we had our cooking party/dinner party together.
First, let’s talk about the ingredient list.
Rice Paper Wrappers:
- “Rice” paper wrappers can also be made from sesame, tapioca, etc. Since the United States has implemented more clear food labeling laws, these items are easily identifiable on packages in the Asian markets about town. I prefer to use the rice based wrappers over the tapioca ones, but many people notice little or no difference between the two major types.
- These “wrappers” are sold in a dehydrated state in many sizes and shapes (round and square being the most prevalent).
- Dehydrated rice wrappers store indefinitely once opened. I usually seal my open package of wrappers in a ziplock bag and tipped on to the side in my cupboard to prevent breakage. Once a wrapper breaks, it is very difficult to use for a wrap, but depending on it’s size, it might still work.
Rice Vermicelli Noodles: (also called “rice sticks”)
- There are many brands and varieties of rice vermicelli noodles or “rice sticks”. Ask the market salesperson if you are in doubt about one particular brand over another. I have found the range of noodles can be from semi-stringy to somewhat overly starchy. Rice noodles are inexpensive, so consider purchasing a couple different brands to compare and find the brand you prefer for future rice noodle endeavors.
Thai Basil, Cilantro, Mint, etc:
- Rice noodles and wrappers are relatively flavorless. Seriously. All the flavor you want in your spring roll comes from two major sources: the herbs you put within it and the sauce into which you are dipping your rolls.
- Thai basil (or any basil if you can’t find “thai” basil) is the most basic and fundamental herb to include. Thai basil imparts a strong basil flavor with a slight peppery taste too.
- Cilantro is another traditional herb to place within a spring roll.
- Mint, tarragon, thyme, lemon verbena, rosemary leaves, etc are all possibilities depending on your other fillings (particularly the meat or veggies), your choice of dipping sauces, and your own personal tastes.
Shrimp or Veggie fillings:
- Most spring rolls have shrimp (opened and butterflied to save on expense) and/or Vietnamese pork. (This is just s steamed pork roll which has a very mild flavor.) The shrimp is usually prepared by simple boiling it in water until just done (about 3 minutes or so depending upon the size of the shrimp) and the pork is purchased ready-to-eat.
- Others forgo the shrimp/meat fillings and fill the spring roll with chopped cabbage, shredded lettuce, shredded carrots, raw/shredded zuchini or cucumbers, etc
Water, water, water:
- Okay, so water isn’t really an ingredient inside the spring roll, but it is very important. You will need warm to semi-hot water to rehydrate both the noodles and the wrappers. Depending upon how many rolls you play to make, you may wish to keep a tea pot of heated water on the stove while you work. That way you can refresh your warm water if it gets too cool to soften the wrapper quickly.
I made about 6 spring rolls with the list of ingredients below. For dipping sauces, you can make your own Sweet Thai Chile Sauce or purchase some when you are at the market. We also like hoisin sauce (but I have yet to work on a GF version of that) so while my love eats that, I enjoy peanut sauce too. There are easy to find recipes online for both of these items. I have just link a couple that look close to what we make – I have not tried these recipes and just found them via google.
For 6 Spring Rolls
- 1/2 package rice vermicelli noodles, soaked in water until completely soften (can soak for up to 2 hours in room temperature water OR for 30+ minutes in warm water until soft)
- 12 shrimp, peeled, de-veined and boiled (21-30 count)
- 12 rice paper wrappers, medium sized (about 7″ in diameter?) (or more! If you are inexperienced, they may rip/break until you get used to them)
- Gaby’s secret touch: Broccoli Slaw Mix
- Soak the rice vermicelli noodles until completely softened. You can soak the noodles in cool/room temperature water for two hours OR soak them in warm (not hot!) water for 30+ minutes while you prep the rest of your ingredients. Taste-testing and swishing the noodles will easily let you know if they are soft and flexible.
- Boil shrimp for 3-4 minutes until just done. Drain. If you wish to, you can butterfly the shrimp to make more rolls. I used 2 shrimp per roll but you can also use the same number but butterflied/open.
- Once the rice vermicelli is completely softened, drain them well.
- Wash/rinse herbs and broccoli slaw.
- Set up your work station. Place a shallow dish near counter space. Both the dish and the counter space need to be large enough to accomodate an open rice wrapper. Also set nearby: the bowl of rice noodles, herbs, broccoli slaw, and prepared shrimp.
- Into the shallow dish, pour warm water (as warm as your bare hands can withstand – but not hot as you don’t want to over-soften the rice wrappers). Slide a rice wrapper into the water. Wait a few minutes (1-3 minutes depending on water temperature and wrapper size) until the wrapper is softened completely.
- Using your wet hand, dampen the counter or cutting board on which you will be working/wrapping/rolling.
- Gently lift the wrapper out of the water and let excess water drip off a bit. Leave the wrapper a bit wet as this is what helps it (a) not stick to the counter and (b) seal against itself when you wrap/roll it.
- Gently spread the wrapper to become as flat/back into circular shaper as well as possible. Take care not to rip the wrapper. In this softened state, it may tear easily.
- In the bottom third, lay whatever ingredient you want to be visible through the top. I have laid the shrimp pieces then topped those with the basil. Some people prefer to lay the basil leaves as they look nice against the top of the spring roll.
- After laying shrimp and basil. Add a few springs of cilantro and a few fresh mint leaves. Then lay a bit of the rice noodle.
- Finally add a bit of broccoli slaw by placing a small amount on top of the rest of the ingredients.
- To roll/wrap, first begin by folding in each side. (I am holding both sides in the picture because my other hand was busy taking a photo – but no worries – with two hands, this is easy.) Then fold the bottom flap up over your ingredients. Then roll the wrap tightly. If the wrap doesn’t stick to itself and stay right away, make sure the wraps are damp/wet. Then roll the wrap over so that the pressure/weight will hold the overlapping parts together a bit.
- The final picture? Well that’s me holding the plate after asking my love to see the final product. It disappeared before I could even put the plate down.
By the way, I wrapped two of these spring rolls into saran wrap and had them for lunch the next day. They were perfect. Although I’m not sure they could have lasted two days in the fridge. But they sure were tasty for lunch the next day.