Summer’s not here yet but if it’s warm enough to wear shorts (it was 75 degrees on Friday) it’s warm enough for Vietnamese Summer Rolls. These versatile rice paper wraps can be filled with all sorts of shredded and julienned vegetables or fruit; rice vermicelli; shrimp, pork, or other meat — or no meat; and herbs. A sweet, tangy, and spicy n ước chấm dipping sauce accompanies.
|A Thai basil ice cube|
Rice paper wraps are fairly easy to find and are dirt cheap in Chinatown, especially at the always reliable Bangkok Center Grocery. While there I picked up some Thai basil, which much to my continuing dismay, is hard to find in New York anywhere else, probably because it is very perishable. Thai basil keeps for only 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator, but if you take the leaves off the stalk and immerse them in ice in an ice cube tray (especially if you have a tray for making large ice cubs), I’ve found they can last up to 2 weeks. Thai basil goes a long way to making authentic summer rolls.
I made these with shredded carrots, torn lettuce leaves, julienned mango, rice vermicelli, shrimp, cilantro, and Thai basil but this is just one possibility for summer rolls. I’ve made great ones with pork instead of shrimp before. Other vegetables like scallions and bamboo shoots can work too, and other herbs like mint. Be creative.
Rice paper is fairly easy to work with. Just immerse each wrap in hot water for 3 or 4 seconds until it gets a little soft and then place it on a damp towel. Place the fillings on the bottom 1/3 of the wrap and roll it up like a burrito. Don’t overstuff; otherwise rice paper is very forgiving.
Of course, you don’t even need to use the rice paper wraps — a Vietnamese summer salad can also do the trick. Just add more lettuce and keep the other ingredients the same. Use the dipping sauce as a dressing, and maybe top with diced peanuts. The salad or a few rolls go really well paired with Phở.
Vietnamese Shrimp Summer Rolls
8 8.5-inch round rice paper wraps
8 leaves lettuce torn or chopped
1 cup cooked rice vermicelli
1/2 cup shredded peeled carrots
1/2 cup julienned almost ripe mango
1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Flavored fish sauce (nước chấm) to taste. Recipe here.
Salt and black pepper
|Grilling shrimp on my grill pan (thanks Westlaw!)|
1. Cook the rice vermicelli according to the package instructions. When done remove the vermicelli and strain. It’ll save some time later if you save the bowl of hot water.
2. Meanwhile grill the shrimp, seasoning with salt and pepper (or poach or broil, whatever). When they cool slightly, cut them in half length-wise.
3. While they’re cooking, julienne the mango with a mandolin if you have one, otherwise cut into strips with a knife. Shred the carrots.
3. Make the nước chấm dipping sauce – recipe here.
|The fillings, all ready to wrap|
1. Place a damp towel on a flat surface. Dip a sheet of rice paper into the bowl of hot water you saved from cooking the vermicelli. Otherwise fill a bowl large enough to dip the rice paper with hot water. Keep the rice paper in the water for 3 or 4 seconds, then remove and lay on the damp towel. The rice paper will get pretty soft so be careful.
2. Spread a lettuce leaf, carrots, mango, Thai basil and cilantro leaves, vermicelli, and shrimp on the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the rice paper. Fold up the bottom edge over the fillings and then fold in the sides like you’re making a burrito. Then roll tightly over. Don’t over stuff!
3. Cut each roll into 2 or 3 pieces and serve with lime wedges and dipping sauce.
Total time: 1 hour; less if shrimp and vermicelli are already cookedMakes 8 rolls