Shrimp and Vegetable Summer Rolls

Roll with it

Originally appeared in the August 26 edition of the Southside Times.

Fresh, light, crisp, cool—those are the first words that spring to mind when I think of summer rolls.  Many people are familiar with spring rolls:  the diminutive, eggroll-like appetizers filled with savory mixtures.  But summer rolls are different.  Read more after the jump:There are more than 1,000 languages spoken throughout Southeast Asia.  With a little gastronomic detective work, you’d uncover a greater number of recipes, and a wide variety of opinions about what distinguishes summer rolls from spring rolls.  Overall, summer denotes fresh, cold rolls, while spring indicates rolls which are deep-fried.  But what both appetizers share are their wrappers.

Banh trang are the round, translucent rice skins used to make Vietnamese summer and spring rolls.  The wrappers are made with minimal ingredients—rice flour, water and salt.  After production, these paper-thin wafers are dried-out on mats under the sun, the mats giving the sheets their characteristic, dash-stitched imprint.

Traditionally, summer and spring rolls are served with nuoc cham (a sweet and tart sauce) or peanut dipping sauce.  Check out my website for a few dipping sauce recipes, as well as a couple deep-fried spring roll recipes.  Get out from under summer’s humid heel with something different.  And cool.

Shrimp and Vegetable Summer Rolls

Serving:  6-8 rolls

  • As needed, spring roll wrappers (rice paper skins)

Filling

  • 2 ounces rice stick noodles (rice vermicelli)
  • 8 poached shrimp, cooled and bisected
  • 2 ounces mung bean sprouts
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 ½ ounces carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 green onion, sliced in to thin rings
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon chile sauce

1.  Soak rice stick noodles in boiling water until tender (about 5 minutes).  Drain and shock in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process.  When cooled, thoroughly drain again and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces.  Place in a large bowl and (with the exception of the shrimp) add in remaining filling ingredients:  bean sprouts, sesame oil, fish sauce, carrot, green onion, cilantro, and chile sauce.

2.  In batches, soak spring roll wrappers in warm water—or a solution of water and rice wine vinegar—until sheets are soft and pliable.  Lay flat on a cutting board, dabbing with towel to soak up excess moisture.  In the center of the wrapper, place several pieces of shrimp along the middle of the sheet (this will ensure a nice presentation with shrimp visible through the finished product).  In a cigar shape, place several spoonfuls of the filling over the shrimp.  Fold sides over filling, and being to roll from the bottom up.  Make sure roll is tight as you complete the process.

3.  Place the completed spring rolls on a sheetpan and cover with a damp towel to prevent from drying out.  Repeat this process until filling is used up.  Slice summer rolls, and serve over a bed of shredded lettuce, accompanied with nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce) or peanut dipping sauce.

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