This is time consuming, frustrating, quite prep intensive, and not easy. The resulting dish is delicious and worth every drop of sweat and shed tear.
Summer rolls are one of those things that seems so daunting that most people, or maybe just me, do not even want to attempt to make them at home. Why spend so much time preparing something like this? Why not just be content to order them at a restaurant where someone else labors instead of you? Because once you know how to do it you will realize that it’s not an impossible task and that they taste better when you’ve made them yourself. Oh, and it’s quite a bit cheaper than restaurant fare.
This recipe is from Epicurious.com, and had really high fork ratings and 95% of people would make them again, so I figured I could handle it. I prepped everything and made the sauce early in the day. I didn’t really measure my vegetables and herbs. I chopped and shredded more than I needed and made more noodles than called for.
This resulted in a lot of leftover veggies, but made more rolls and I had more chances to screw up and tear the rice paper…which, by the way, is very easy to do! Use a light hand with the wrappers and be prepared to toss some into the trashcan. I like bean sprouts, so I added those to a few of the rolls when I added the carrots. After adding the carrots, when rolling the roll closed, is when I would tear the rice paper. Good news though, by the last couple rolls I was putting out some very pretty, tight, nice looking rolls.
Tips for making summer rolls:
- Make sure you keep the rice paper moist and don’t let the sheets touch each other for too long or they’ll stick together and tear.
- Don’t try to pack too much in the rolls. If they are too full they won’t roll properly and there is more of a chance of the paper tearing.
- Have some water available to dip your fingers in to help manage the rice paper.
- If you plan to have left over rolls, don’t spread any peanut sauce on them. Leave them plain and use the peanut sauce to dip the rolls.
Step 1: Place lettuce leaf on top of rice paper round and spread with a bit of peanut sauce.
Step 2: Layer rice noodles, mint, basil and cabbage in the center of the lettuce leaf.
Step 3: Roll rice paper halfway, folding in the sides as you reach the center (like a burrito).
Step 4: Place some carrot, the cilantro and bean sprouts on the crease, then roll the rest of the way.
Make the roll as tight as possible without tearing the paper. Press the paper together to seal the roll.
Summer Vegetable Rolls
For peanut sauce
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 3/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 3/4 teaspoon sugar
For summer rolls
- 1 ounce bean thread noodles (cellophane noodles) or thin rice noodles
- 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
- 4 (8-inch) rice-paper rounds, plus additional in case some tear
- 2 red-leaf lettuce leaves, ribs cut out and discarded and leaves halved
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (preferably Thai)
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced Napa cabbage
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/3 cup coarsely shredded carrot (1 medium)
Make sauce: Cook onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes in oil in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until pale golden, about 4 minutes. Whisk in remaining sauce ingredients. Simmer, whisking, 1 minute, then cool.
Make summer rolls: Cover noodles with boiling-hot water and soak 15 minutes, then drain well in a sieve. Pat dry between paper towels and toss with vinegar and salt to taste.
Put a double thickness of paper towel on a work surface and fill a shallow baking pan with warm water. Soak 1 rice-paper round (make sure there are no holes) in warm water until pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute, then transfer to paper towels.
Arrange 1 piece of lettuce on bottom half of soaked rice paper, folding or tearing to fit and leaving a 1-inch border along edge. Spread one fourth of peanut sauce over lettuce and top with one fourth each of mint, basil, cabbage, and noodles. Roll up rice paper tightly around filling and, after rolling halfway, arrange one fourth of cilantro and carrot along crease. Then fold in sides and continue rolling. Transfer summer roll to a plate and cover with dampened paper towels.
Make 3 more rolls in same manner. Serve rolls halved on the diagonal.
Cooks’ note:Summer rolls may be made 6 hours ahead and chilled, wrapped in dampened paper towels in a sealed plastic bag. Bring rolls to room temperature before halving and serving.