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how to make vietnamese fresh spring rolls

by Yee-Fan Sun
1 2 3

Vietnamese fresh spring rolls are essentially nifty little self-contained salads-to-go -- crisp raw veggies and minced fresh herbs, along with cooked shrimp, pork, fried tofu or whatever else suits your fancy, all neatly packaged up in a deliciously chewy-soft, pliable rice paper wrapping that you can snatch up and eat with your hands (or chopsticks, if you’re feeling civilized). They’re delicious, refreshingly cool, and fun to make … and just perfect for a light summer meal, or a dinner party hors-d’oeuvre.

You’ll need to make a trip to an Asian market for some of the ingredients, notably the rice paper rounds and rice vermicelli that are two of the essentials for this recipe. Rice paper rounds are frequently labeled banh trang, and generally come in a round plastic container. I like the 8" diameter wrappers, but they also come in larger and smaller versions. The rounds are hard, brittle and semi-translucent when you buy them, and studded with little hash marks all over the surface. (The texture comes from the bamboo surface against which the rice dough is pressed in order to form the rounds.) Look for them near the noodle section of the market, along with the rice vermicelli. You can substitute bean threads/bean vermicelli if you like.

The rice paper rounds are fairly delicate once they’re soaked and softened for use, so be prepared to tear a few in the process of wrapping before you really get the hang of it. Once you’ve figured out exactly how much filling your wrappers can handle, however, making the rolls is a breeze.

vietnamese fresh spring rolls goi cuon
The beauty of these spring rolls is that you can you just about any ingredients you like. Substitute the shrimp with fried tofu for a vegetarian version; use snow peas and crisp bean sprouts instead of the carrots and cucumbers.

12 rice paper rounds (banh trang)
3 oz. rice vermicelli, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, till soft
24 medium shrimp, unpeeled
1/2 small head green leaf, red leaf or romaine lettuce (about 10-12 leaves)
2 carrots
1 large cucumber
1/4 cup of any or all of the following fresh herbs: thai basil, mint, cilantro (I like to use mostly basil, with a smattering of mint in the mix, but use whatever suits your taste)
3 stalks scallions

serves 4 as light main dish, 12 as appetizer

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