Spring rolls, summer rolls, fresh rolls, salad rolls, rice paper rolls . . . whatever you call them, these are one of my favorite foods. I order them as an appetizer every time I see them on a menu. You don’t have to go out to a restaurant to eat spring rolls, though — they’re easy to make at home. A julienne slicer makes short work of preparing the carrot and cucumber, and making a small batch of spring rolls takes less than an hour. The result is an impressive and beautiful appetizer or snack.
Since the spring rolls themselves are not seasoned in any way, they require a flavorful dipping sauce as an accompaniment. Mine is nice and garlicky, made creamy with smooth peanut butter and spiced with a dollop of sambal oelek, an Indonesian chili paste. Sambal oelek is available in Asian grocery stores and many super markets, but if you don’t have it on hand, feel free to substitute a pinch of red chili flakes.
Rolling the rice paper takes a little bit of trial and error. It’s a lot like rolling up a burrito, except that the rice paper wraps stick to themselves, so you have to be extra meticulous about your folding and wrapping! Keep tucking the roll in as you go to insure a tightly-packed wrap that will hold together when eaten.
makes 10 rolls
10 large (9″ diameter) rice paper wraps
4 oz. rice vermicelli noodles
1 C. cilantro leaves
1 large carrot, julienned
1/2 medium English cucumber, julienned
1 green onion, sliced thinly on the bias
1. Prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl. Set aside, along with a mesh strainer.
2. Bring a medium sized (2 1/2 quart) pot of water to boil. Add rice vermicelli noodles and boil for three minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking. Drain in mesh strainer, then place strainer full of noodles into ice water bath. Swish around to cool noodles and instantly stop cooking. Once noodles are ice cold, remove strainer from ice water.
3. Bring a 10″ skillet of water to a simmer, then turn off heat.
4. Dip a rice paper wrap briefly into the skillet of warm water. Quickly spread out the wrap onto a cutting board, before it can stick to itself. Layer fillings on wrapper and roll like a burrito. Repeat until all wrappers are used.
5. Keep spring rolls on a plate under tightly sealed plastic wrap until ready to serve.
Peanut Dipping Sauce
makes about 3/4 cup
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, microplaned or pressed
3 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. agave syrup
2 Tbsp. smooth natural peanut butter
1 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy suace (or tamari, which is gluten free)
1/2 tsp. sambal oelek
1 In a small (1 quart) saucepan, heat the vegetable oil, sesame oil, and garlic over low heat for a few minutes to infuse the garlic into the oil.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the saucepan and stir to combine. Turn off heat when warmed through.