Of all of the interesting foods I have enjoyed while traveling around the world, the cuisine of Vietnam would have to be some of my favorite. Vietnamese recipes utilize a diverse range of herbs, including lemongrass, mint, long coriander and Thai basil leaves. Fish sauce, soy paste, rice, fruits, and vegetables are used with combinations of these herbs to create interesting and complex flavors. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is commonly ranked as one of the healthiest cuisines in the world being admired for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and heavy reliance on herbs and vegetables.
The spring roll or Gỏi cuốn is a rice paper rolls that often includes shrimp, herbs, pork, and rice vermicelli wrapped up and served with sweet chili sauce (Nước mắm pha), peanut sauce, and hoisin dipping sauce. Spring rolls almost constitute an entire category of Vietnamese food, incorporating a wide variety of ingredients in preparation.
To prepare Vietnamese spring Rolls – Gỏi cuốn:
Cooks Note: These are the ingredients I used to make my rolls. Feel free to create your own combinations. I rough chop my herbs for ease of eating, but you can certainly leave them whole if you prefer. I wet a tea towel and place it on my cutting board to work on, the wet towel helps to keep the rice papers moist and easier to work with.
- cooked shrimp, halved
- bean sprouts
- carrots, cut into matchsticks
- cucumber, cut into matchsticks
- fresh lime
- rice stick, cooked and cooled
- rice paper wrapper
Begin by preparing all of your ingredients (Mise en place). Dip a sheet of rice paper in warm water according to the instructions and place it on the wet towel. There is a bit of a knack to working with these wrappers, so just go for it. (No matter how many photos or videos you watch demonstrating this process, there is only one way to learn how to work with the wrappers, don’t be afraid). Rice papers are relatively inexpensive so don’t worry if you lose one or two in the learning process.
I start by placing three shrimp halves in the center of the wrapper (show side is face down). Add the rest of the ingredients alternating colors and textures. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime. Gently fold (stretch) the lower edge of the wrapper up over the ingredients. Fold (stretch) the sides in to create an envelope. Close the roll by gently stretching the remaining flap across the roll, re-moistening if necessary to seal. (Practice makes perfect. I would highly suggest you make these a few times for yourself before attempting to “wow” your friends, or you just might but not in the way intended).
To prepare sweet chili dipping sauce – Nước mắm pha:
- 1 ½ cup fresh coconut juice or water
- 8 tbsp fish sauce
- 6 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 6 tsp rice vinegar
- 6 tbsp sugar
- 1 fresh red chili deseeded and finely chopped
- 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic
- ¼ cup carrots finely grated (optional)
Combine the coconut juice or water, rice vinegar, and sugar in a saucepan. Slowly bring mixture to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, chili, garlic and carrots into the cooled mixture.
Leftover sauce can be frozen for another meal.