Ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement.
Never again am I paying $3, $4…okay, let’s be real–$5, $6, $7 for spring rolls at a restaurant ever again. Neither is Lilly.
You might think this is an exaggeration, but no. I’m never ordering them again because
a) they’re so super cheap and easy to make at home that dropping cash to buy 4 at a time is like flushing dollar bills down the toilet and
b) I’m going to make these every day for the rest of my life until I’m sick of them and decide never to eat them again.
(That decision might last…what, a week?)
So these rolls. They’re fresh and crunchy, with those paper-like rice paper wraps that turn chewy and translucent when you dip them in water bound around aromatic basil, juicy cucumber, elastic-y but tender noodles and cracking carrots. But the real kicker is the peanut sauce we made.
Oh. My. God. Best. Dipping Sauce. Ever.
It is literally a thick sludge of peanut butter that somehow tastes honey roasted and sesame-studded, heightened and brightened by lime, thickened and complexified by hoisin sauce.
It’s incredible. I wouldn’t recommend making these rolls without it. (Unless you make some other kick ass sauce, preferably lime-highlighted).
Are these thai? Vietnamese? WHO KNOWS?! Here’s my philosophy: you can literally make spring rolls with anything from crab to fruit to peppers to spinach to shrimp to tofu. I’ll tell you what I used, but I’ll also list a bunch of optional ingredients that I have either used in the past, dreamed about using, or eaten in some type of spring roll.
When considering how to craft your perfect spring roll, you, like me, might be tempted to dump everything in life inside those chewy little rice wraps. That will not taste good, just a caution. Generally, spring rolls = the following equation:
vermicelli + 1 protein + basil or other herb + 2ish vegetables
Generally, I like to think that the vermicelli and basil are non-negotiables in spring rolls. Then again, I’ve made spring rolls without vermicelli (not as good).
The best place to buy rice paper wraps or dried vermicelli is, by far, your local Asian mart. If you don’t have one, check out the international section of any other market.
Vegetarian Spring Rolls
- ~30 rice paper rolls
- 1 small package vermicilli noodles (a little goes a long way!), boiled and drained
- 1/2 Japanese cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
- 10-15 baby carrots, sliced into matchsticks
- 5-6 plush sprigs of fresh basil (approximately 1/2 cup loose leaves)
- 12 sticks imitation crab
- Proteins: shrimp, tofu
- Herbs: fresh mint leaves, cilantro
- Veggies: julienned bell peppers, thinly sliced avocado, lettuce leaves, bean sprouts, cabbage, mushrooms, scallions, chiles
- Noodles: cellophane, bean thread and glass noodles are all the same as vermicelli. Note that most noodles require soaking before cooking.
You can also add aromatics like ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, peanut oil, etc. to flavor the rolls themselves, but I find that if you use a flavorful dipping sauce, it’s not necessary.
Peanut Dipping Sauce
Adapted from here.
- 3/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 1/2 medium limes)
- 4 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Thin with additional tablespoons of water or lime juice if the sauce is thicker than your liking.
You can make the sauce a day ahead. Keep in a refrigerated covered container and let sit at room temperature before serving.
To make these, you’ll need:
1 wide, shallow bowl or container full of warm water
A plate or cutting board to roll the spring rolls
A plate for finished spring rolls
Now that you have all your ingredients, are you ready to roll?
1) Dip a rice paper wrap into the warm water and swirl until softened. You want all hints of the papery-ness to melt away, but you don’t want it to be so sticky that its unmanageable.
2) Lay the wrap flat on a plate and mound a little bit of vermicelli on the bottom third closest to you. Add herbs, veggies and protein.
3) Fold the left “flap” of the wrap over the filling, then the right. Then lift the bottom of the wrap (the “flap” closest to you) over the roll and tuck it tightly under the filling as best you can.
4) Continue rolling away from you, keeping the ends neatly contained as you do so.
5) Uhh…that’s pretty much it. I like to rest the spring roll on the crease to pretend like that will help it seal, but the rice paper wraps are honestly pretty sticky even if you don’t do that. Make sure you leave a little space between each roll when you lay out your spread of finished rolls (or, let’s be real–IN YOUR MOUTH!)
Spring roll high five!
Yes. We are dorks.