Vietnamese-inspired Summer Rolls with Peanut (or no nut) Sauce
Adapted by Ellen Touart-Grob from Chowhound.com and Regan Burns
Makes: 16 rolls
These light and healthy Vietnamese-influenced Summer Rolls are filled with cooked shrimp (or leftover chicken or tofu) rice noodles, and plenty of fresh herbs and vegetables that impart flavor, color contrast and crunch. There is great flexibility in the choice of veggies you include in your Rolls. Use the freshest ingredients possible and feel free to substitute, as your taste prefers and definitely use what you have on hand. Once your ingredients are prepped, the rolling fun begins as sheets of rice paper are softened in water and used for the wrappers. Served with a spicy peanut (or no-nut) sauce, these Rolls are a great hot-weather appetizer or light dinner.
What to buy
It’s nice to use a natural peanut butter in this recipe, but you can certainly use whatever peanut butter you have on hand.
If you have a peanut allergy, substitute SunButter for the peanut butter. If you use the conventional kind, omit the sugar called for in the sauce. Look for hoisin sauce and chile-garlic paste in the Asian section of your supermarket. For the chile paste, Huy Fong Foods (with the rooster on the jar!) is a good brand. The rice stick noodles and rice paper wrappers can be found in most Asian grocery stores. Purchase enough wrappers to allow you to experiment with the assembly – it may take a few tries to perfect your method. Also, the wrappers will last a long time if you store them tightly in a ziplock bag, so they will not go to waste.
Be sure to have all your ingredients ready and easily accessible when you start to roll, and give yourself plenty of time (and counter space) to make these. NOTE: If this is your first time making these Rolls, have some extra ingredients, including extra rice paper wrappers on hand to accommodate for any mistakes. It may take several tries before your rolls are holding together and are attractive. Store the Summer Rolls on a platter or in a plastic container that’s roomy enough to hold them without them touching. Place a damp paper towel on the bottom of the platter or container to keep the rolls moist. Cover them lightly with a damp linen or cotton kitchen towel and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve them. The Rolls are best eaten the day they are assembled.
You can make the peanut (or no nut) sauce a day ahead. Just keep it refrigerated in a covered container. Let it sit for an hour or so at room temperature before serving.
For the peanut (or no-nut) sauce:
- 3/4 cup natural-style creamy peanut butter – or really any peanut butter you have on hand
(or Sun Butter for those with nut allergies)
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 1 1/2 medium limes)
- 4 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (leave this out if your peanut butter is already sweet)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons chile-garlic paste
- 1 medium garlic clove, mashed to a paste
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
For the Summer Rolls:
- 24 medium shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled and deveined (or leftover chicken or tofu)
- 4 ounces dried rice stick noodles or rice vermicelli
- 16 (8-1/2-inch) round rice paper wrappers plus more for trials
- Optional: 1 cup mung bean sprouts (about 3 ounces)
- 1 cup julienned carrots, 3 – 4” in length
- 32 fresh mint leaves
- 32 fresh regular Basil or Thai Basil leaves
- 16 fresh cilantro sprigs
- Optional: 2 serrano or other chiles, stemmed, halved, seeds removed, and thinly sliced lengthwise into 32 pieces
- 1 medium English cucumber, or several pickle cucumbers, scrubbed, ends trimmed off, cut lengthwise into ¼” strips, then cut cross-wise into 3” – 4” pieces, and then julienned
- 3 medium scallions, julienned lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 3 – 4” pieces (white and light green parts only)
- 8 Bibb lettuce leaves, cut in half or Arugula or Kale leaves
- 1 ½ cup red cabbage, finely shredded with a Mandoline
For the peanut sauce:
- Whisk all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.
For the summer rolls:
- Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until bright pink and just opaque, about 1 1/2 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water until cool. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and place on a cutting board.
- Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, halve each shrimp horizontally. Place in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate until you’re ready to assemble the rolls.
- Soften the rice noodles according to the package directions. Drain, trim into 3” lengths, keep moist and set aside.
- Place all of the ingredients in separate containers or organized on a large sheet pan and arrange them in the following order around a work surface: shrimp, rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint, basil, cilantro, serrano (if using), cucumber, scallions, and lettuce, arugula or kale leaves. Place the stack of rice paper wrappers to the left of the sheet pan and a clean cutting board in the center where you will assemble the rolls.
- Fill a medium frying pan or wide, shallow dish large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers with warm tap water. Working with 1 wrapper at a time, completely submerge the wrapper for about 3 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on your cutting board. Soon it will be very pliable.
- Working quickly, lay 3 shrimp halves in a row, cut side up, just above the center of the wrapper, leaving about 1 inch of space on each side. Layer a scant 1/4 cup of the rice noodles over the shrimp, followed by a few bean sprouts or carrots, 2 of the mint leaves, 2 of the basil leaves, 1 sprig of cilantro, and 2 pieces of serrano, if using and some shredded red cabbage. Place 4 of the cucumber sticks and 2 of the scallion pieces on either side of the noodle pile. Roll one piece of lettuce/arugula/kale into a cigar shape and place it on top of the noodle pile, or lay it on top of the entire pile.
- Dip your fingertips into the water and gently grasp the bottom edge of the rice paper wrapper and fold the bottom half of the rice paper wrapper up, over the filling. Holding the whole thing firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in, dipping your fingers in the water again, as necessary to keep them from sticking. Then, pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire wrapper horizontally up from the bottom to the top.
- Turn the roll so that the seam faces down and the row of shrimp faces up. Place it on the serving platter and cover loosely with a damp linen towel. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and fillings. Leave 1/2 inch between each Summer Roll on the platter so they don’t stick together. Replenish the water in the pan or dish with warm tap water as needed.
- If not serving immediately, keep the Summer Rolls lightly covered with the towel at room temperature for up to 1 hour, or in the fridge if you’re serving later. They are best eaten the day you make them. Serve the Rolls accompanied by the peanut sauce for dipping.