Summer-Perfect Recipe: Fresh Spring Rolls with Thai Chili Sauce
Whether I’m ordering Thai food or making it myself, fresh spring rolls are always part of the equation. My kids prefer the deep fried spring rolls, but the fresh spring rolls (also known as cold rolls), to me, are scrumptious because they’re full of vegetables.
That’s probably the most dietitian-like thing I’ve ever said.
But hear me out: fresh spring rolls are basically a salad in a thin, rice paper wrap. When I make them myself, I stuff them with pretty much any vegetable and protein I have. My only rule for fresh spring rolls is that they be bright and colorful…which isn’t hard to achieve.
The photos of this recipe show the rolls made with shrimp, but really, any protein will work. My favorites are steamed shrimp (obvs), and tofu, which I use raw.
Yes, you can eat raw tofu, and it’s perfection in this fresh spring roll recipe.
I have made fresh spring rolls with char-siu pork, which is delicious, but a bit more complicated, because you have to cook the pork and all of that.
I don’t know about any of you, but after the last year or so, I’m not reeeeaaaally in the mood to make things more difficult for myself, or for any of you. You feel me, right? The very essence of fresh spring rolls is that they’re FRESH, not COOKED. If you happen to have any leftover chicken or other proteins lying around, you can use them. I wouldn’t go out of my way to cook something especially for a fresh spring roll recipe.
As far as the vermicelli goes, I can seriously take it or leave it. These ones have it, but I’m just as likely to leave it out, and you can, too.
One thing you should know about fresh rolls, is that they sort of need a dip to go along with them. Just plain cold rolls are okay, but a dip elevates them by adding more flavor and a bit more moisture to the mix.
In the spirit of making things simple for everyone, I’m using bottled Thai sweet chili sauce with this fresh spring roll recipe. You know, the kind you get at the supermarket. Yes, I know it has sugar in it. But how much sauce are you going to eat?
If you’re super motivated, you can make your own peanut sauce by combining peanut butter, soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and water to thin it.
When you get the hang of working with the rice wraps, fresh spring rolls are actually quick and easy to make. But don’t be afraid of the wraps, either – have a few extra lying around just in case you get into a sticky situation.
You’ll know what I mean, once you start working with them.
This recipe can be doubled and tripled if you want. It’s perfect for parties, or for a light lunch. The rolls are best eaten immediately – they sort of get tough when they’re refrigerated.
- 2 oz/50 g/1 serving Vermicelli rice noodles cooked according to package directions
- 9 medium shrimp cooked and cooled, sliced lengthwise
- 6 rice paper wraps
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup butter lettuce
- 1 bell pepper sliced into thin strips
- ½ cup fresh mint
- ½ cup fresh cilantro
- ¼ head/1 cup purple cabbage
- Optional additions: shredded carrots chives, cucumber, tofu, sliced pork, chicken
Prepare rice noodles and shrimp according to package directions, set in the fridge to chill while you prepare other ingredients.
Prep vegetables as needed and set aside. Place water in a shallow bowl or plate that is larger than the rice paper wraps.
Prepare a non-stick surface such as a wood or plastic cutting board.
One at a time, dip a rice paper wrap into the water and remove immediately. Transfer wrap to your non-stick surface.
On one end of the rice paper wrap, arrange lettuce, pepper, mint, cilantro, cabbage, and noodles (or vegetables of choice) into a rectangular stack.
Place your shrimp (or protein of choice) in the center of the rice paper. Fold the edge closest to the vegetables over the stack, followed by the two side edges. Continue to roll until the rice paper has sealed to itself.
Serve immediately with sweet thai chili dip.
Move quickly when assembling each roll, or you run the risk of the wrap sticking to your surface.
If you still have trouble with sticking, oil your board with cooking spray or a thin layer of vegetable oil.
You can also prevent sticking by only submerging the wrapper in water long enough to wet all areas of the wrap.
Serve whole or sliced in half to reveal the contents.
Rolls can also be served with a creamy peanut sauce.
Omit and substitute ingredients as you see fit. If you don’t vibe with cilantro, leave it out!
You can store these rolls in the fridge and enjoy the next day, but they are best served right after assembling.