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TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Shrimp Summer Rolls

Fried Spring Rolls
Top: Vegetarian spring rolls with shredded daikon, carrots, cucumber trips and peanuts (photo IST). Second: Vietnamese Summer Rolls (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs Caterers). Third photo: Shrimp spring rolls (photo courtesy Three Ladies Rice Paper). Bottom: Chinese-style fried spring rolls (photo courtesy Davios | Boston).

  Spring rolls are one of our favorite appetizers at Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. Even if we buy them at the take-out sushi counter at Whole Foods, they’re still $6 for two vegetarian rolls.

So why don’t we make them at home?

Yesterday, a lazy Sunday, we held a Spring Roll Brunch in our home, along with wine pairings.

You can create a do-it-yourself spring roll buffet, but given the crowd, we enlisted one dexterous friend to help us with the wrap-and-roll.

That said, they are easy to make and have a very high prep time:delicious factor.

So first: What’s a spring roll?
 
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EGG ROLLS, SPRING ROLLS & SUMMER ROLLS?

Identifying spring rolls can be confusing, and here’s why:

While some countries, including China, make fried spring rolls, Thailand and Vietnam use the oncooked wrapper.

The term “spring roll” is not synonymous with “egg roll,” which is always fried. An egg roll has a heavier pastry wrapper that can be sliced into sections; a fried spring roll is very fragile and can shatter like phyllo.

  • Egg rolls are deep fried; the wrappers are thicker, making egg rolls more of a filled pastry (most are vegetable, egg and/or meat or seafood filling). Spring roll wrappers are thinner, the shape is narrower and when fried the rolls are more finger-like. If you want to make egg rolls, here’s how.
  • Spring rolls are an Asian appetizer, eaten either Vietnamese-style, in an uncooked* rice noodle wrapper, or fried Chinese-style. They are traditionally eaten during the Spring Festival in China, hence the name; but also are popular in Cambodia and Indonesia.
  • Vietnamese and Thai spring rolls use rice paper wrappers, which can be found in Asian markets. The dry hard wrappers are moistened into pliancy and translucency, and filled with seafood; red lettuce or Boston lettuce leaves; fresh mint, basil and cilantro leaves and shredded carrot. They are served with a chili dipping sauce.
  • Summer rolls are made in the style of spring rolls, but with more seasonal ingredients. They are not fried.

    Vietnamese spring and summer rolls are like eating a fresh salad roll, more complex in flavor (thanks to the fresh herbs) than fried Chinese spring rolls. They are served with a spicy dipping sauce known as nuoc cham, of which there are many variations.
     
    Spring rolls and summer rolls are made from a rice wrapper: tapioca starch, rice flour, salt and water. They are gluten-free and vegan. Egg roll skins are made from wheat flour and egg.

    The ingredients show through the translucent wrapper and create lovely eye appeal. You can roll anything in the soft rice flour wrappers—the stiff rice wrapper becomes soft after dipping in water. You can find the rice flour wrappers at Asian markets or the Asian products section of a good supermarket.
     
    Customize Your Spring & Summer Rolls

    Vietnamese spring rolls generally contain seafood such as cooked shrimp, accompanied by any combination of rice sticks, carrot, cucumber, daikon, shiitake mushrooms and fresh, leafy herbs: basil, cilantro and mint. Iceberg lettuce or green cabbage can be added for crunch.

    We also like adding toasted chopped peanuts (salty or honey-roasted) to half the batch, to our rolls.

  •  
    How did spring rolls get their name?

    Originally, they were special snacks served to visitors with tea at the Chinese New Year, which is the beginning of lunar spring.

    Both spring rolls and egg rolls date back to ancient China, and both are traditionally served with hot Chinese mustard or a dipping sauce.
     
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    *Vietnamese spring rolls, or cha gio, are not fried—although some Vietnamese and Thai restaurants in the U.S. have taken to serving Chinese-style spring rolls as well, catering to the American taste for fried food.

     

    RECIPE: CHICKEN & AVOCADO SPRING ROLLS

    Ingredients For 4 Rolls

  • 4 spring roll skins
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado†, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 chicken breast (4 ounces), pre-grilled or baked and sliced thin
  • 1 cup romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup soy ginger sauce, peanut sauce or other dipping sauce (recipe below)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SEED, peel and slice the avocado.

    2. SOFTEN the spring roll skin in cold water for 5 seconds then place flat on cutting board. Place the sliced avocado and chicken breast, romaine and shredded carrots in the center of the spring roll skin. Gently fold over one side of the spring roll skin, fold in the edges and gently roll to the other end of the spring roll skin as though you are wrapping a burrito.

    3. SERVE on platter and serve with dipping sauce.

     
    RECIPE: DIPPING SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar‡
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce, nam pla (you can substitute soy sauce**)
  • 1 garlic clove minced)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed chilies (you can use red pepper flakes)
  •   avocado-spring-rolls-hassavo-230

    Rice Spring Roll Wrappers
    Top: Avocado Spring rolls (photo courtesy Chiquita Brand). Bottom: Spring roll wrappers, made from rice flour (photo courtesy Rose Brands).

     
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the vinegar, water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the fish sauce, garlic, lime juice and chilies.

    2. COOL and serve, or else refrigerate.
     
    _____________________

    †Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.

    ‡Depending on your personal palate, you can reverse the quantities of rice vinegar and lime juice. One good-size lime will yield 1/2 cup of juice.

    **Soy sauce will obviously taste different from fish sauce, but it still works as an Asian dipping sauce.

      




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