Making Summer Rolls is part craft, part cooking, with minimal heat. Assemble colorful vegetables and bouncy rice noodles on a translucent spring roll wrapper, roll it up, and stir up a zesty sauce.
Once you get the hang of it, this recipe takes about 20 minutes more than making a salad. It will:
- Unleash your inner artist
- Occupy the kids, if you let them help, and inspire them to eat their veggies
- Give your menu a change of pace that’s chewy, fresh, and bright
- Disguise salad so that it’s welcome at cookouts: no forks required
- Save money by making food that costs much more in restaurants
Summer Rolls are gluten-free if you use gluten-free soy sauce. My version is also vegetarian and vegan, with no added oil or sugar.
Roll up fresh vegetables in rice spring roll wrappers for a fun appetizer or side dish. If you want, take time to arrange the contents so it looks gorgeous through the translucent wrappers. Dip in the sauce described below or your own favorite. The cook time and cost varies widely depending on your salad ingredients and how fancy you want to be. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, oil-free, and sugar-free. Nut-free option.
- 2 ounces vermicelli rice noodles
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 each spring roll wrappers plus a few extra if this is your first time
- 4 medium mushrooms chopped
- 2 medium carrots grated
- 2 small cucumbers cut into half-moons
- 1 1/2 cups salad greens or kale, chopped
- 2 medium spring onions cut into rounds
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves or basil, dill, shiso, fennel, etc., chopped
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 8 leaves fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce gluten-free if desired
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter optional
- 1 each lime juiced, about 2 tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
- Fill a medium pot about half full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add noodles and salt. Boil according to the package directions, about 2 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
- Chop mushrooms and microwave in a covered, microwave-safe container for 1 1/2 minutes. Set aside to cool without draining. (You'll add their juice to the greens.)
- Set up a work area with room for your ingredients, a linen or cotton towel for rolling, a bowl of water for dipping your fingers, a dish for the finished rolls, and a wide skillet or bowl for dipping the wrappers in water. You'll want to dip them in water a little warmer than room temperature, so I used a big skillet.
- Prepare the vegetables. Set aside mint leaves for decoration with a few other herb leaves if desired. If using kale, save stems for another recipe and tenderize chopped leaves by squeezing them firmly in your hands ten or twenty times until soft and dark green. Mix greens, spring onions, remaining herbs, soy sauce, and mushrooms with their juice in a medium bowl. When everything is set up, heat the dipping water.
- Working one roll at a time, dip wrapper into warm water for three or four seconds, just until it starts to soften. (If the dipping water is too hot, the wrapper edges will curl inward.) Place it on the towel. To make the rolls shown in my images, put one mint leaf in the center of the wrapper. Line up three cucumber slices on either side. Top with grated carrot for a high-contrast background. Without overfilling the roll, add greens, noodles, and if desired an extra herb for decoration.
- Dip your fingers in water so they are clean and wet. (See animated image above.) Gently fold the wrapper sides over the ingredients. Use one hand to fold up the bottom and the other hand to press ingredients toward you, so the roll is somewhat tightly packed. Push the roll away from you toward the top of the wrapper until it is sealed. Take a minute to admire how gorgeous it is. Repeat with the other wrappers. Do not let rolls touch on your serving or storage plate to prevent sticking and tearing.
- If using peanut butter, put it with soy sauce in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Stir in other ingredients. Taste and adjust as needed.
- Serve Summer Rolls with dipping sauce right away or cover with a slightly damp cloth (I used the rolling cloth) and refrigerate briefly, up to four hours.
- According to Cooks Illustrated, the nucleotides from mushrooms plus the glutamates from soy sauce "provides the meaty punch" of fish sauce. That's why this recipe mixes chopped mushrooms with soy sauce in the greens.
- Find spring roll wrappers and rice noodles in the international section of many grocery stores or at an Asian food store. I found GMO-free ones locally and organic ones online.
- I tried both white and brown-rice wrappers. They work and taste the same, with essentially no nutritional difference. The brown-rice wrappers are a little darker, which could be useful if you want to tell the difference between two fillings later.
- Don't save the hot water from boiling the noodles to use as your dipping water. I did the first time. The added starch made the rolls too sticky.
- If your wrappers stick to the fabric too much, try putting them on a damp plate.
- Mix up the veggies based on what is in season or in your fridge. I'm looking forward to including bell peppers.