Total time: 45 minutes || Active time: 45 minutes
I just took my first trip to London and I’ll write more about that soon, but the first thing I felt like making when I came home was…Vietnamese-inspired food! Perhaps my palette was overloaded with mashed potatoes and delicious gravies, and I needed the bright fresh flavors of ginger and mint.
I have an obsession with Southeast Asian food, and until I take my dream trip to Vietnam, I’ll gratefully settle for my favorite Vietnamese here in the states, like Lan in NYC and Jasmine 26 in Minneapolis. And, of course, whatever I make at home.
This time, it’s rice paper rolls. Call them summer rolls, if you prefer! They are the perfect appetizer for any occasion, really. I served these with a rich coconut curry, but they’d be just as at home at a summer BBQ or on their own for lunch.
For me, the most important characteristic of a rice paper roll is freshness. Fresh ingredients and fresh wrappers. The rice paper should be supple, and the temperature should be chilly. Inside, there should be crunch and clean flavors. I like to save the spicy assertive notes for the sauce.
I love how beautiful my cutting board looks with the simple ingredients for stuffing inside!
Here we’ve got my favorite cabbage to eat raw, nappa cabbage. It has a gardeny flavor and the perfect amount of snap; not too difficult to chew. Carrots, cut into matchsticks, for their color and crunchiness. Avocado to add a creamy fattiness that is the perfect foil for all of the veggies. And you can’t have rice paper rolls without fresh herbs! Mint and cilantro make these rolls pop. Since I served these as part of a larger meal, I didn’t feel a need to add tofu, but you totally can, if you like. Baked or sauteed and sliced into strips is ideal.
The peanut dipping sauce employs a little cheating ingredient: red curry paste. This way, we don’t have to do any more chopping or cooking, everything goes into a little blender and 30 seconds later a spicy, peanutty, gingery, tangy sauce appears. Magic! Just double check your red curry paste for fishy ingredients. Thai Kitchen paste is widely available and vegan.
If you’ve never worked with rice paper wrapper before, don’t be intimidated! Follow my notes below and you can not go wrong. And even if you do, no big deal. There are, like, a million wrappers in a package last time I counted. But really, it’s all about the fun, so grab a friend and get rolling! You’ll be a pro in no time. Now go get fresh.