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-to-delicious factor ratio.
But first: What’s a spring roll?
Identifying spring rolls can be confusing, and here’s why:
While some countries, including China, make fried spring rolls, Thailand and Vietnam use uncooked wrappers.
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.
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.
The ingredients show through the translucent wrapper and create lovely eye appeal (photos #2 and #3).
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.
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.
*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
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 a platter with dipping sauce.
 Avocado spring rolls (photo © Chiquita Brands).
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.