Vietnamese rice paper rolls are versatile, easy to make, and can be served as an appetizer or the main. They’re perfect for parties and pot lucks, because they can be made in advance and they make wonderful gluten free, vegetarian or vegan options. Just slice them in half crosswise on a diagonal and serve with dipping sauce.
The most commonly known Vietnamese rice paper rolls have prawns (see recipe below). However, you could think of it like a tortilla wrap and use whatever fresh vegetables, herbs, protein, and rice noodles or mung bean noodles that you happen to have on hand. For vegetables, I recommend using bean sprouts or julienned cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, cooked shiitake mushrooms, etc. Try adding slices of fresh mango! For protein, use strips of cooked chicken, pork, beef, tofu, or even Korean bulgogi (marinated and barbecued meat). I love making a simple Peking duck inspired rice noodle roll with shredded roasted chicken, julienned English cucumbers, shredded green onions, hoisin sauce, and sesame paste or tahini. This is a great way to transform leftovers into something completely different. The components of the rice noodle rolls are usually simple and even a bit bland, but they are delicious when paired with flavourful dipping sauces. I particularly like making these in the summer, because you don’t have to use the oven or stand over the stove.
Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls with Shrimp / Prawns Recipe
(see below for dipping sauces)
Note regarding the quantities of the ingredients: You only need a pinch or so of each ingredient per roll, so you do not need a large quantity of anything. Adjust ratios to taste.
rice paper, medium sized round shape (use 1 sheet per roll; 1 package will make plenty)
3 large shrimp/prawns per rice paper roll, steamed or boiled until just cooked through and cooled
thin rice vermicelli noodles or mung bean noodles, cooked in boiling water until desired texture is reached and then drained and cooled
iceberg lettuce, shredded finely
fresh Thai basil leaves
fresh cilantro, rolled up and sliced
fresh mint leaves, rolled up and sliced
Bring a large kettle of water to boil. Pour it into a large, heat proof bowl that is wide enough to hold the rice paper when laying flat. Wait until the water has cooled enough so that you can put your hands in it without scalding yourself. Work with one sheet of rice paper at a time and make one roll at a time. Submerse a sheet of rice paper in the hot water until it becomes smooth, until it softens to a nice edible texture, and until it becomes very pliable but not soggy. Follow the instructions on the package but note that this can take up to 2 minutes. Carefully remove the rice paper from the water, allowing excess water to drop off, and place it onto a large plate. If the rice paper tears too easily, you have left it in the water for too long. Spread the rice paper out so that it is smooth and completely flat on the plate. Then place three shrimp/prawns in a horizontal line across the middle of the rice paper. Top with one or two thai basil leaves and a light sprinkling of cilantro and mint leaves. Then add a small bunch of shredded lettuce and a small bunch of noodles. When you’re adding your ingredients, try to keep them in a 3 inch-long log shape in the centre of the rice paper, leaving about 1.5 inches of rice paper free at each end. To wrap the rice paper roll, fold the bottom end of the rice paper up and over the filling. Then fold both ends inwards, over some filling and the bottom fold of rice paper. Finally, roll it up from the bottom up, until the filling is completely covered by rice paper and the top fold of rice paper is completely wrapped around the roll. Serve whole or slice in half crosswise on a diagonal. Serve with dipping sauce(s) on the side.
for the dipping sauces:
Option 1: Nuoc mam cham, which is a fish sauce-based dipping sauce
Use store bought or make your own by combining fish sauce, rice vinegar and/or fresh lime juice, palm sugar, finely minced garlic and small red chili pepper to taste.
Option 2: Peanut dipping sauce
1/8 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
In a small bowl, mix together all of the ingredients until well combined. Mix in cold water, a few drops at a time, to thin the sauce out until you’ve achieved your desired consistency.