Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls

I learned about these from my Korean friend, Chong Lee. She told me that all the filling ingredients are approximate — you can use a variety of meats, shrimp, and vegetables. The key is fresh herbs, a good dipping sauce, and don’t be skimpy with the meat or shrimp.

Springroll ingredients  Vietnamese Fresh Spring Roll

12 Vietnamese rice paper rounds, about 8 inches in diameter
3-4 oz dried thin rice stick noodles
12 large shrimp, cooked and peeled
3/4 lb cooked pork loin, roast beef, turkey, chicken, or ham — shredded or cut in strips (you can substitute baked tofu)
12 large leaf lettuce leaves, stiff stems discarded
1 large carrot, peeled and finely julienned
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and julienned (if you use an English cuke, you don’t have to peel and seed)
4 green onions, green part only, in 3-inch lengths
Julienned bok choy (optional)
12 sprigs of fresh Thai basil
12 sprigs of fresh cilantro or mint
Dipping sauce (see below)

Bring a small pot of water to a boil and toss in the noodles. Let sit until soft, 1-4 minutes, then drain. In another small pot, cook the carrots in some boiling water until tender, then drain.

To assemble:
Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip one of the wrappers in the water just for a couple of seconds and then place it on a large plate. It won’t be pliable immediately, but it will soften as you load up the filling ingredients.

In the center, place 3 shrimp, a few pieces of meat, and some carrot pieces. Then a piece of lettuce and a small handful of noodles. Top with a few pieces of cucumber and green onion and some fresh herbs. You can put a spoonful of sauce in at this point, too.

Tuck the ends over the filling and then roll it up like a burrito. If the wrapper is too soft and it tears, just wrap another one around it.

Serve with one or more dipping sauces:

Peanut sauce is required at our house. You can also use a chili-lime sauce.

February 19, 2007 Update: We have a new favorite sauce! I call it Will’s Amazing Orange Sauce.

Serves 4 as a meal, 6-12 as an appetizer.