Once you get the hang of it, they really are a snap to stuff and roll. And when you think about it, they’re perfect to make for or bring to a party, as they cater to virtually all dietary requirements – depending on what you stuff them with (and it can be anything you like – thinly sliced red pepper, pea pods, lettuce, crabmeat, shrimp, blanched asparagus, bean sprouts, chives, jicama, mango, shreds of leftover cooked chicken or pork) they’re vegetarian (easily vegan, even), gluten free, egg free, dairy free, low in fat and calories. They travel well, and kids like them as much as grown-ups. They’re well worth learning how to make.
The key is to soak rice papers until they’re pliable, then pat them dry so that they stick to themselves when you roll them up. All the measurements are approximate – you just need enough filling to stuff as many rolls as you want to make.
And make lots of peanut sauce – it’s great to keep in the fridge and toss over cold spaghetti, shrimp, leftover roast pork or chicken, and whatever fresh veg you have on hand – cucumbers, pea pods, asparagus, broccoli slaw…
Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls
15 small-medium rice paper wrappers
100 g (3 1/2 oz) thin rice vermicelli noodles (about a handful)
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
15 cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
Half cucumber, peeled if necessary and cut into thin sticks
Small handful fresh cilantro, mint or thai basil leaves, torn up or left whole
1/4 cup chopped peanuts (optional)
To prepare the filling, place noodles in a bowl of boiling water and let stand for about 3 minutes (or as package directs) to soften. Drain well and place in a medium bowl. Add carrot and rice vinegar and toss to combine. Cut the shrimp lengthwise in half.
To assemble the rolls, fill a shallow dish (I use a pie plate) with hot water and lay a clean tea towel over your work surface. Soak one rice paper round at a time in the water for about 10 seconds, until it’s pliable, and lay it on the tea towel. Pat the surface with the edges of the towel to absorb any excess water. Place two shrimp halves (cut side up so you can see the pink through the wrapper), a stick of cucumber and some noodles down the middle of the round. Sprinkle with cilantro and peanuts. Fold over one long side to cover, then fold up both ends. Roll the whole thing up as tightly as you can without tearing the wrapper.
NOTE: If you’re pregnant, make sure to eat the cooked shrimp while still warm.
Use more or less broth to make this sauce as thick or thin as you like. If you like coconut flavor in your peanut sauce, add a teaspoon of coconut extract instead of coconut milk, which is high in saturated fat.
1/4-1/2 cup light or regular peanut butter
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar or honey
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar or lime juice
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. sesame oil (optional)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. curry paste (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a blender or jar and whiz or shake until smooth. Refrigerate until you need it.