Fresh Spring Rolls

Leafy lettuces and fresh herbs are more than just salad fixin's. Roll them up, toss in some protein, and you've got a wrap. At the Asian market, the sight of fresh Thai basil, mint and cilantro puts us in the mood for fresh spring rolls on Meatless Monday.

Spring rolls originated in Chinese cuisine and spread to surrounding Southeast Asia. Somewhat confusing on restaurant menus, the name spring roll is used to encompass fried rolls, steamed rolls, and fresh rice paper rolls with a variety of meat, seafood and vegetables for the filling.

Summer roll is a term used strictly for fresh rolls; it helps clarify the fresh from fried or steamed versions. Fresh spring rolls are not cooked. The main ingredients are rice noodles, lettuce, fresh herbs, vegetables and cooked protein wrapped in a rice paper wrapper. The rolls are served with a soy, fish sauce or chili paste based dipping sauce.

Usually served as an appetizer, we made a light meal out a version of Vietnamese style rolls, and packed a lunch with the leftovers.

jump for recipe and where to buy ready made

Fresh Spring Rolls
Package of rice sheet wrappers
1 lb marinated and baked firm tofu OR
1 lb large shrimp, cooked and split lengthwise in half
1 head green leaf or Boston bib lettuce
4 oz rice vermicelli, soaked in hot water and drained
4 oz fresh bean sprouts
1 English cucumber, peeled, julienne cut
2 medium carrots, shredded
½ cup fresh mint leaves
½ cup fresh basil leaves
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

1. Fill a wide bowl or glass pie pan with hot water. Place 1 wrapper in the bowl and soak until transparent and soft (about 15 sec). Work with 1 wrapper at a time, do not leave additional wrappers in the water as you work, they will be too soft to handle without tearing.
2. Remove wrapper from water and place on a clean damp kitchen towel.
3. Place tofu or shrimp about 1 inch from the edge of the wrapper. Place a lettuce leaf over. Add vermicelli noodles, bean sprouts, cucumber strips, carrots and the herbs in a lengthwise strip a little to the side of the tofu or shrimp.
4. Fold the bottom of the wrap over the ingredients. Fold the top of the wrap over the ingredients (you can leave top open). Fold one side of the wrap and tightly roll it until it forms a secure bundle. Continue filling and rolling the remaining wraps.
Serve cold or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. To hold and serve as a lunch box or airplane meal, wrap rolls individually in plastic wrap.

Nuac Cham Dipping Sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Thai bird chilies, seeded, minced (substitute 1 jalapeño or Serrano chili)
1-teaspoon chili paste (or less for milder flavor)
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup fish sauce
2 Tablespoons fresh limejuice
2/3-cup hot water

Mince the garlic and Thai bird chili together. Combine the garlic and chili with chili paste, sugar and hot water. Whisk to combine. Mix in the fish sauce and limejuice. Let sauce sit for 20-30 minutes before serving.

To busy to make them? Where to find:
Pei Wei (ask for tofu instead of chicken)
Pho Thanh
Loving Hut
Fresh Mint
Sekong by Night

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