These vibrant Vietnamese rice paper rolls are a dinner party delight.
Light and flavorful, these beautiful Vietnamese salad rolls make perfect hot-weather food. They’re easy to assemble too. Just wrap soft, translucent rice paper around vermicelli rice noodles, tender lettuce, crunchy vegetables and herbs — then dip it in a lively sauce.
When I’m at the farmers’ market, I seek out multicoloured carrots and watermelon radish for their bold visual impact, and, availability permitting, I encourage you to follow suit. That way, when you take a bite, you expose the rolls’ vibrant, almost kaleidoscopic interior. Native to Sài Gòn, these rolls are a southern Vietnamese specialty. This recipe makes 16 rolls with 8½-inch (22 cm) round rice papers.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in the noodles and use chopsticks or tongs to untangle and loosen. Boil until tender, 3 to 5 minutes, then drain and immediately flush with cold water.
Squeeze gently four or five times to get rid of any excess water. Set aside on a plate, loosely covered with a clean kitchen towel. (You should have about 2 cups of noodles).
Mix the carrot and radish together and divide into four piles on a large plate. Place, along with the jicama, lettuce, cilantro, mint, and rice paper, next to a clean cutting board, preferably next to the stove.
Place a large shallow skillet or a 9- or 10-inch (23 to 25 cm) pie plate filled with warm to hot tap water on an unlit burner closest to the cutting board. Dip one rice paper into the water for a few seconds to soften and lay it flat on the cutting board. Place a lettuce leaf on the bottom third of the rice paper, leaving a border of 1½ inches (4 cm) on either side. Place 1½ to 2 tablespoons of noodles on the lettuce and spread into a 4-½-inch (11 cm) line. Line three leaves of cilantro and a leaf or two each of mint and basil over the top. Grab a portion of the carrot/radish mixture (a quarter of each pile is one portion) and two jicama strips and spread over the length of the noodles, overlapping if necessary.
Carefully lift the bottom edge of rice paper over the filling and roll over once into a tight cylinder. Fold in the sides and continue to roll into a cylinder 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12. 5 cm) in length. Place on a clean plate or serving platter loosely covered with a damp clean dish towel. Repeat with the remaining rice paper and filling. (When the water is no longer warm, gently reheat it or discard the cold water from the pie plate and refill with warm to hot water.)
Store the rolls in a single layer on a plate or tray covered with a damp clean dish towel and wrapped with plastic in the fridge for up to several hours before serving.
Make the Everyday Table Sauce. Serve the rolls on a platter or individual plates and dip into the sauce before eating.
Everyday Table Sauce
Put the sugar, water, rice vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, and salt into a bowl. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Add and mix in the chile and garlic. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Let the sauce sit for 10 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to intermingle.
Serve in one medium bowl with a spoon so guests can drizzle some extra sauce into their spring rolls following their initial bite. Or double the recipe and serve in small individual bowls.
You can mix the sugar, water, vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, and salt together up to a day in advance. Stir in the chile and garlic 10 to 15 minutes before serving.