Into the Kitchen: Vietnamese Summer Rolls

People are most familiar with fried egg/spring rolls, but a much lighter and healthier “version” exists in the Vietnamese cuisine. Summer rolls highlight the Vietnamese people’s adoration for fresh herbs and vegetables. They are absolutely delicious appetizers. The “prep” work for the numerous ingredients is labor intensive, but once you have everything ready, it is a very quick and easy step to roll one from the plate and straight into your hungry mouth!

Vietnamese Summer Rolls (multiple versions exist; below is a type called “bò bía”)

2-3 links of Chinese sausage (“lap cheung”/lạp xưởng)
1-2 eggs
2 tbsp rehydrated dried shrimp
1 jicama
1 large carrot
Large handful of fresh Thai basil
2 tsp minced garlic
Fried shallots (buy packaged at store)
Chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
Vietnamese rice paper

1. Boil Chinese sausage to cook for 5-7 minutes until done. Let cool and then slice oblong thinly.

2. Peel jicama and carrot and slice into thin matchsticks. Over low heat, add oil and stir fry garlic until fragrant. Add jicama and carrots. Sprinkle a pinch of salt. Cook until vegetables soften. Set aside to cool.

3. Beat egg(s) into a bowl. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat with a little bit of oil until hot. Pour egg mixture into pan to form a single layer “egg sheet”. Pour excess egg back into bowl. Put pan back on the heat and cook until surface of egg is “dry”. Flip “egg sheet” onto a cutting board. Let cool, fold it into a loose roll and cut into strips. Repeat with remaining egg mixture until all of it is cooked.

4. Chop up dried shrimps. Heat a frying pan over medium low heat without oil. Add shrimps and “dry fry” to toast.

5. Get a large bowl of lukewarm water. Dip 1 rice paper into the water until the entire surface has been exposed to water. The paper will continue to soften/rehydrate as you work with it. Lay it flat onto a plate. Arrange the ingredients above as depicted below onto the rice paper:

6. Wrap summer rolls as depicted below:

7. Enjoy with peanut dipping sauce!

Cooking Tips
– These rolls are best eaten freshly rolled. The rice papers can stick together and worse, become hard in the fridge. You cannot microwave them. You can wait for them to warm up to room temperature (more palatable), but nothing compares to fresh rolls. We recommend only making enough to eat per meal time and storing the “filling” separately to assemble when ready (if you have extra filling).
– For this recipe we like to use “lạp xưởng Mai quế lộ”; this is a special type of Chinese sausage that is made with wine. It is sweeter and offers a unique taste.
– Feel free to modify the recipe according to your taste and available ingredients. The Vietnamese summer roll has these essential main components: (1) protein (i.e. grilled meats), (2) fresh herbs (i.e. Thai basil), (3) vegetables (i.e. pickled daikon/carrots, cucumbers), and (4) thin rice noodles. To minimize carbohydrate intake, some people opt not to have any noodles and pile on the herbs/vegetables.

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