Sunday, August 17, 2014

Vietnamese-Style Summer Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Vietnamese Dipping Fish Sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham)

Vietnamese summer rolls are fresh spring rolls made with boiled shrimp and/or pork, rice noodles (maifun), assorted fresh herbs (typically mint and basil), and lettuce. The wrappers, aka "rice paper," are made from rice flour and are individually softened in warm water until pliable and translucent before they are stuffed and rolled. These rolls are not only delicious but also healthy because they are not fried so there's no added oil. This recipe starts out with the traditional base ingredients of poached shrimp, rice noodle sticks, mint, Thai basil, and lettuce, to which I've also added a bit of thinly sliced scallion, chopped cilantro, julienned hothouse cucumber, and sliced avocado. I like to serve these with a spicy peanut sauce and a Vietnamese dipping sauce made from lime juice, sugar, garlic, water, fish sauce, and thinly sliced serrano chiles. Both sauces can be made ahead by a day or two, just keep covered and refrigerated. It may look like a lot of ingredients and time-consuming, but once everything is prepped, its a cinch to assemble these summer rolls. 

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 oz. dried Maifun (rice noodle sticks)
1 bunch (1 cup) fresh Thai or Sweet basil leaves
1 bunch (1 cup) fresh cilantro leaves
1 bunch (1 cup) fresh mint leaves
3 scallions, cut thinly along the bias
1 hothouse cucumber, seeded (or at least the soft center removed with a spoon) & julienned
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and cut into slices & sprinkled with a squeeze of lime juice to keep them from turning brown (oxidizing)
1 small head of red-leaf or butter lettuce

1 12-oz. package dried Vietnamese rice paper/spring roll wrappers (Banh Trang)

Spicy Peanut Sauce:

1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 tsp. sweet bean paste (or 2 tsp. hoisin sauce)
2/3 cup water
2 tbsp. lime juice (1 lime)
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 1/4 tsp. Sriracha (or any other chile garlic sauce)
1 garlic clove, put through a garlic press or grated
1 tsp. sugar 

Vietnamese Dipping Fish Sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham):

1 cup very warm water
4 tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
1/3 cup fish sauce
1 serrano chili, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup thinly shredded carrot (optional)

1. Prepare the peanut sauce by mixing all the ingredients into a medium bowl until well-blended. Cover and refrigerate.

2. Prepare the Vietnamese dipping fish sauce by mixing all ingredients into a bowl. Cover & set aside. 

3. Bring a medium stock pot of water to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until the shrimp has just turned pink. Immediately remove the shrimp to a colander or strainer and rinse with cool tap water to stop the cooking. Shake well, blot dry. Place the shrimp on a chopping board and slice in half, lengthwise. Place the halved shrimp in a bowl or Ziploc-type container, cover and refrigerate.

4. In the meantime, place the Maifun (rice noodle sticks) into a bowl and cover with very hot water. Let soak for 10-15 minutes or until softened. Drain well in a sieve/colander. Remove to a chopping board and cut into 2" lengths. Set aside. 

5. Wash and prep the herbs, veggies and greens, then place them in separate bowls or Ziploc-type containers


Basil, Cilantro & Mint: use the leaves only (no stems)

Hothouse Cucumber: cut the ends off, then slice the cucumber in half, lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out/remove the soft seeds in the middle, then cut into 2" lengths and julienne. 

Lettuce: Whether using red leaf or butterhead lettuce, I like to strip the tender leafy parts off of the central stem before adding them to the summer rolls. 


1. Wet a clean kitchen towel and place over a large chopping board or on the kitchen counter. 

2. Pour 1-2" warm or room temperature tap water into a casserole, round pie dish, or whatever's large enough to fit a round of the spring roll wrapper. 

3. Have all the containers with the stuffing ingredients (shrimp, herbs, scallions, avocado, cucumbers, and maifun) set out on the counter and ready to go.

4. Place one of the rice paper wrappers into the water and let it soak 10-15 seconds until pliable (not longer). Gently remove to the damp kitchen towel. 

5. Place 5 shrimp halved (attractive side down) in a single row down the middle of the wrapper. Top with about 2 tbsp. of the maifun, then a few of the julienned cucumber, basil leaves, cilantro leaves, scallions, and mint leaves. Add 2 avocado slices and some lettuce leaves. 

6. Gently fold the bottom and top halves of the wrapper over the filling, then fold the right side of the wrapper over the filling, and start rolling to the left (same concept as making a burrito). Remove to a serving platter. You can slice the rolls in half for a more attractive presentation. Serve with the two dipping sauces on the side. 

NOTE: If serving a bunch of these rolls on a serving platter, make sure they're not too close together cuz if they stick, you'll have a heck of a time getting them apart. Summer rolls can be made ahead of time about 2 hours - just make sure to cover them well with plastic wrap so they don't dry out. They will keep overnight in the frig, but the fresher the better. 

Cook the shrimp in boiling water for 1- 1 1/2 minutes until they just turn pink. 

Immediately remove the shrimp to a sieve or colander and rinse under cool tap water to stop the cooking. Drain well.  

Halve each shrimp lengthwise.  

Place the halved shrimp into a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate.  

Combine all the peanut sauce ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate.  

For both sauces, you can either finely mince the garlic using a conventional knife, put it through a garlic press, or grate it on a grater. 

1 small head of red-leaf lettuce. I separate the leaves, wash, the tear the tender leafy parts off of the central mid-rib of each leaf.  

Hothouse cucumber, cut into 2" lengths. I slice each piece in half lengthwise, then scoop out the soft seeds in the center with a spoon, then julienne into matchstick-sized pieces.  

Dried maifun or rice noodle sticks.  

For the peanut sauce: Sriracha (chile garlic sauce), soy sauce, creamy-style peanut butter, sesame oil, and sweet bean paste. 

Cover the Maifun with hot water in a bowl and let sit for 10-15 minutes or until softened.  

Drain the noodles well in a sieve/colander.  

Chop the noodles into 2" pieces.  

Vietnamese dipping fish sauce. 

Red leaf lettuce (tender parts only), and basil & mint leaves.  

 Cilantro leaves and sliced scallions and cooked, sliced shrimp, chilled. 

Sliced avocados and julienned cucumbers. 

Rice paper wrappers (spring roll skin). 

Soak each wrapper in warm or room temperature water for 10-15 seconds or 
until just pliable (don't oversoak or they will break apart). 

Place the wrapper on a damp kitchen towel, then line the center with about 5 shrimp (colorful outer side down, for better presentation).  

Top the shrimp with about 2 tbsp. of the maifun/rice noodles. 

Top with a few basil, cilantro and mint leaves, scallions and a small amount of lettuce.  

Top with a couple slices of avocado and julienned cucumber.

 Gently fold the top and bottom part of the rice paper over the filling, then fold the wrapper from the left over the filling and roll over (just like making a burrito). 

 Cut each roll in half for easier eating and serve with the dipping sauces on the side. 

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