What I love about summer is the chance to eat lovely, light, fresh food, especially as I’m not a salad-person. I generally crave hearty pastas or stews or dishes that make me feel cozy on the inside. But since I started kickboxing this summer, I’ve really started craving lighter meals.

Answer: delicious Vietnamese-inspired summer rolls.

They’re easy to make, full of fresh produce and herbs, and totally customizable. It can be fun with friends or family because of the hands-on assembly. You don’t even need super precise measurements or directions! And most of the work is prepping the ingredients. A few of these babies and I’m full without feeling heavy. Sometimes, I don’t even want the peanut sauce and simply use chili garlic sauce.

If you don’t want to use shrimp or Vietnamese ham, I’ve also made this with sliced pork belly and pan fried strips of firm tofu. Whatever protein you use, don’t season it much to keep that light and fresh flavor.

Pardon the pictures this time. These ones only have shrimp in them. It wasn’t until later that I made some with tofu and Vietnamese ham. Mm… maybe I should make a feel more while the sun shines…

Summer Rolls
Inspired by Chowhound

1 package round rice paper wrappers (found in Asian markets- they come in different sizes, so choose whichever you want)
4 oz dried rice stick noodles or vermicelli
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 package Vietnamese ham (found in Asian markets, called cha lua)
1 cup bean sprouts
1 bunch fresh Thai basil
1 bunch fresh mint
1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and cut into sticks
8 Bibb lettuce leaves, cut in half

Alternative protein: fry thin strips of firm tofu in some sesame oil if you don’t feel like using meat- it tastes wonderful!

Peanut sauce:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
Juice of half a lime
2 teaspoons soy sauce
dash of sugar
1 teaspoon chili-garlic paste
drizzle of sesame oil
water to thin as needed

1. Mix peanut butter and hoisin sauce until smooth.
2. Add lime juice, soy sauce, sugar, chili-garlic paste, and sesame oil and stir.
3. Add water 1/5 T at a time to smooth out to desired consistency

1. Place a medium saucepan of water to boil. In a kettle or another sauce pan, boil a couple of cups of water and set it aside.
2. Drop the shrimp into the boiling water and cook until pink and just opaque, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. Set aside.
3. Bring another medium saucepan of water to boil. Cook the rice noodles to package directions. Drain and set aside.
4. Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, slice the shrimp into halves. (You can do this during step 3!) Place into a container.
5. Slice Vietnamese ham into thin rectangular slices.  (Vietnamese ham comes in large rolls, so you might just quarter it and slice a quarter thinly for these rolls)
6. Arrange all the other ingredients in their containers around a workstation: rice paper wrappers, shrimp, basil, ham, cucumbers, rice noodles, mint, lettuce.
7. Fill a shallow dish with the hot water from step 1. It doesn’t have to be super hot- if it is too hot, the rice wrappers will soften and curl up into itself. Set out a plate or tray for finished rolls

1. Submerge a rice wrapper into the dish of hot water until it’s soft and move it it gently on your workstation. Chowhound uses a damp towel, which is better for potential sticking. I used a plate. The picture show a cutting board, but I switched because the wrappers stuck to the board like crazy.
2. Place three shrimp, pink side down, in the middle (or just under) of the wrapper.
3. Layer on a few basil leaves. Add a couple of slices of ham. Add a few sticks of cucumber. Add a scant 1/4 cup of rice noodles. Top with a few mint leaves and a rolled up piece of lettuce. (adjust amount and order as you desire)
4. Now we roll. Like a burrito or spring roll. Fold the bottom of the wrapper up and over the filling. Holding the filling to keep it in place, fold in the sides. Finally, holding on to the folded sides, roll the roll upwards towards the top of the wrapper. Try to get the seam (top edge of the wrapper) on the “bottom” of the roll- the lettuce side. “Face up” should have the shrimp showing.
5. Place on prepared plate or tray. Repeat until you get as many rolls as you want or you run out of ingredients.

Serve with peanut sauce! And additional chili-garlic paste if desired!

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