Sunday, November 14, 2010

Easy Sunday Dinners: Healthy and Easy Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I recently discovered an amazing Asian market located not too far from my home in Salt Lake.  What this translated to was that I was going to begin making more dishes that I typically would lack the ingredients for.

My first simple venture?  Delicious, fresh Vietnamese spring rolls.

The best thing about Vietnamese spring rolls is  that they work as a quick snack or as a meal.  And they're diet friendly and gluten-free friendly if either of those are a concern.  I also think they're fun to make.  And the ingredients are nearly identical to make gyoza or potstickers so you can make that a simultaneous project or a next project.

What you will need:

Cellophane noodles (also called Rice Vermicelli)
Grated carrots
Napa Cabbage
Ground Pork (cooked with sesame oil)
Scallions (Green Onion)
Ginger (grated)
Garlic (crushed/chopped fine - I used a garlic press)

Hoisin Sauce

Rice Paper

Okay, ready?  This is seriously very simple.  I had a woman ask me while standing in line what I was doing with my rice paper.  I should point out that I may have been the only white person or non-native Asian in the store.  When I told her I was making spring rolls, she encouraged me to buy the larger size as native Vietnamese typically use these.  Why?  Because they're much easier to roll.  I like the smaller size and once you've made them once or twice, it's really not hard at all. But there's a quick tip for you if you're feeling unsure.

First, cook your ground pork (or you can also use ground turkey if you prefer) with a bit of sesame oil.  I find this lends a lovely roasted sesame flavor to the meat.  While that's cooking, you can start boiling water on the stove (or microwave).  You'll need the boiling water for both the rice noodles and for the rice paper.  Once the water is boiling, break off a cake or two of the rice noodles.  Turn the heat off and toss the noodles in.  They'll soak for a few minutes to soften.  If only Italian pasta was this fast...

The rest of your prep work is just in getting your veggies ready.  I like to keep things simple - and a little fast and loose.  I don't necessarily use much in the way of measurement.  This way you can customize what you like for each delicious, healthy bite.  You'll want roughly 1-2 grated carrots, 1 cup of chopped Napa cabbage, chopped scallions, and four or so cloves of garlic and three or so knobs of ginger pressed with a garlic press.

Once your meat is browned, your noodles soft (and drained), and your vegetables chopped and ready, you'll need a large bowl.  I would recommend tossing the meat and veggies together first.  Then, at your discretion, begin mixing your noodles in.  Be careful not to mix too many - remember you'll be wrapping  this all in rice paper and you don't want to only have a bite of rice noodle/paper each time.  You can always use the leftover noodles for a separate noodle dish - perhaps even tossed with your leftover spring roll innards.  You can leave the spring roll stuffing as is or you can kick it up a notch with a splash of soy sauce or rice vinegar.  I like to dip my spring rolls so I like my spring rolls au naturale.

Using your leftover water from the rice noodles (or boil some new hot water), soak ONE piece of rice paper.  Do not toss the entire stack in.  I did this once, thinking I was being efficient in my prep.  Nope, you will just lose the whole stack.  Once it becomes workable and looks like plastic wrap floating in the water, pull it out.

Place a small amount of filling in a line form on top of the rice paper.  Fold one of the long ends over filing.

 Using your fingers, pull the paper that is over the filling back to make it taught.  You will then fold each of the two sides over this.

 From here you will simply continue your original roll, keeping the paper taught.

After you repeat this with the rest of the paper and filling, you can enjoy now or refrigerate for later.  Eat naked or serve with 3 tbsp hoisin sauce and 1 tbsp chopped peanuts mixed together.  Or better yet, peanut sauce (mix 1 c peanut butter, 1/4 c soy sauce, 2 tbsp dark brown sugar, 1/2 c hot water, chopped peanuts).

Try not to eat them all at once.  This will not actually be a problem if other people happen to be around.  My boss polished about half of the fifty I made in about ten minutes.  People with Celiac disease are so deprived - but I guess this makes them feel less so.  Stuff your face!  After all, it's actually pretty darn good for you!


  1. MMMMMMMM those rice rappers are the bomb. i could eat them alone... but also this recipe looks might tasty :-)

  2. Those look yummy. I love spring rolls. I am a vegetarian though, do you think tofu would be a good substitute for the pork?

    Also, Have you had the spring rolls from cheesecake factory? They are divine. Maybe if you ever get the chance to try them you can put idiot-proof aka sharon-proof recipe for them :)

  3. Correction: They are not spring rolls, they are avocado egg-rolls.

  4. Thanks Molly! Rice wrappers are totally the bomb!

    Sharon - you could totally sub out the pork/turkey for tofu. Just buy the extra firm tofu, slice it up into smaller pieces that would fit into the rolls, and then saute in a little sesame oil and maybe soy sauce before rolling those bad boys! Yummy! Maybe I'll try that next time...who cares if Chris will eat them or not.

  5. Yeah, who cares about Chris anyway ;) Kory hates tofu too. But it is so fun to be able to share food with each other!