Fresh Spring Rolls

Growing up, one of my fondest memories was being in the kitchen rolling these and eating them at the same time: My mom came in one time, took a look around and asked incredulously, “Judy, you’ve been in the kitchen for half the day and you’ve only rolled five??!?!”

Dad laughed and replied with, “Don’t you know your daughter by now?  She eats them as she rolls.”

LOL.  Not much has changed, to be honest.  This has always been one of my favourite things to eat – the fresh garden herbs and the toasted rice powder make such an awesome combination, I often find myself eating these plain without Vietnamese vinegar.

This is a super versatile recipe that you can switch up based on what people like.  For example, some friends don’t like fresh mints and herbs because they’re too strong and so we leave them out.  Other friends think the vinegar is too sour, so they eat it plain or add sugar to their own bowl.  In fact, these were traditionally made with boiled shredded pork skin – since that’s not exactly healthy, we just left that out.

At its simplest, I’ve rolled mixed greens in rice paper, dipped it in the vinegar and called it a meal.  I think most people consider this an appetizer, so I stuck it in multiple sections, lol.

  • 1 package dried rice vermicelli
Fresh Veggies:
  • 1 bunch red leaf lettuce, cut lengthwise through the middle or part into thirds if you have very large leaves)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch fresh garden herbs (I love Thai basil, mints and my parents love lemon balm but I find that lemon balm oxidizes easier than the others)
  •  1 teaspoon oil, for frying
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 250 gr pork loin, pork shoulder or any other protein cut is strips (We’ve used Vietnamese pork sausage, ham, tempeh, etc)
  • 2 Tablespoons of soy sauce (cooking with my mom = lots of soy sauces.  We did 2 teaspoons each of “soy sauce”, “light soy sauce”, and “mushroom soy sauce”.  Some are saltier than others and she claims that one of them gives the meat colour.)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 package toasted rice powder
  • 1 package rice paper
 Preparation of vermicelli:
  •  Boil water and cook vermicelli according to package instructions (all brands are slightly different, but it’s usually about 5-7 minutes).  Strain and rinse with cold water.  Strain and set aside.
Preparation of veggies:
  • While the vermicelli is cooking, wash all veggies and set aside on separate plates.
Preparation of meat/protein:
  • Heat oil in frying pan with garlic and onion.  Once it’s light brown, add your pork.  When thoroughly cooked, add soy sauce, sugar and salt.  Remove from heat and stir in toasted rice powder.  Transfer to a bowl.
Preparation of rolls:
  • Set up your “Wrapping station” so that each ingredient is easily within reach.
  • Prepare a shallow dish with water (you will be dipping the rice paper in it, so make sure the diameter is big enough so that you can wet it without bending the paper)
  • Have an empty tray nearby for completed rolls.
  • Also have a surface to roll on (I have these things that are a cross between a strainer and a plate, which are awesome, but a “regular” plate will work too.  I’ve also used those plastic dollar-store cutting boards to roll and it works fine.)
  • Dip the rice paper into the shallow pan of water and transfer to rolling surface.  When the paper begins to feel sticky, add the vermicelli, herbs and meat in one straight line.  Fold the rice paper to cover your fillings and squeezing the fillings gently so they are secure and roll the rest of the way.  Some people like tucking in the ends before rolling, but I am not a fan of eating the ends that way (too much rice paper, lol).
  • Continue rolling until you have no more ingredients.  Finished rolls can be covered with a moist towel to keep the rice paper soft.  If you wait too long to eat them, the rice paper will harden (which can be unpleasant).
  • If the rice paper tears or cracks, feel free to double-up on the rice paper.  If the roll is not tight enough, the fillings will fall out easily especially when you’re trying to eat them.  If the roll is too tight, the paper can tear.  Once you get into the rhythm of it, it’s quite simple.
  • Eat it plain, dipped in salad dressing of your choice, or my favourite, the Vietnamese vinegar.

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