Now that summer is officially here and we finally had a nice hot summer’s day, it’s time to make Summer Rolls. They are sometimes called Spring Rolls, although the Spring Rolls are often fried. Summer rolls are made with fresh, raw vegetables, with or without boiled shrimp. Gỏi Cuốn translates literally as salad rolls, which is pretty much what they are: a shrimp salad in a roll. I’ve always loved these for their burst of flavor from the fresh herbs inside heightened by the sweet spiciness of Hoisin (WHO-zjen) sauce and sweet chili sauce.
Many thanks to chefs Cindy Hay (pictured above), Wyn Ha and Jenny Inpraseuth; my Southeast Asian colleagues who cheerfully and patiently taught me to make these.
Asian ingredients are available at most Asian markets and Berkeley Bowl
You can make these Vegetarian/ Vegan with just the salad ingredients (skip the shrimp and just use Hoisin Sauce with a bit of lime juice and peanuts).
About 2 1/2 cups of medium shrimp. If you buy shrimp in their shells, they make a lovely broth.
3 cups water
1 slice of fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
Hoisin dipping Sauce
Cindy told me that the sauce needs to have sweet, sour and salty flavors:
1 cup bottled Hoisin sauce (tương ăn phở)
1 Tb chopped peanuts
juice from 1/2 lime
1 package rice paper rounds
I shallow bowl or pie pan with warm water
You can vary the salad ingredients, but always include mint and basil leaves and rice noodles.
Rice vermicelli noodles (rice sticks) size medium Jiang Xi Bún Giang Tây.
1 large peeled carrot (or about 8 peeled baby carrots)
3 Persian cucumbers (no need to peel)
1 red bell pepper
½ cup cilantro leaves
½ cup mint leaves
¼ cup Thai basil (you can substitute regular basil if you can’t find the more aromatic Thai basil)
4- 6 green leaf leaves lettuce. Use the upper part of the leaves.
1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed and cut in half
chunks of 1 avocado
You can make the shrimp and Hoisin dipping sauce ahead of time.
Defrost shrimp in a colander under cold running water for 7 minutes. While shrimp is defrosting, fill a medium pot with 3 cups water and add 1 tsp of salt, ginger and garlic, and bring to a boil. Bring shrimp to boil over high heat, then boil for 3 minutes. Drain shrimp into a salad spinner or over a sieve into a bowl, reserving cooking liquid. Pour the liquid back into the pot. Cool shrimp until you are able to handle them. Peel the shrimp and cut in half lengthwise. Return the shells into the reserved liquid. Boil the shrimp shells, garlic and ginger uncovered for 10 minutes until reduced. Pour over a sieve and set aside to cool.
Making the Hoisin dipping sauce:
Combine ¼ cup reserved shrimp broth with Hoisin sauce. Top with crushed peanuts.
Prepare the noodles:
Boil 12 cups water in a a saucepan. Break off about 4 oz rice vermicelli noodles, also called rice sticks – Jiang Xi Bún Giang Tây (about 1/4 of a 14 oz package). Be sure they are size medium, not the very thin vermicelli.
Cook the noodles for 6 -8 minutes in boiling water, stirring occasionally.
Cool them by rinsing them in a sieve under cold water for one minute. Stir and separate the noodles with a fork or chopstick so that they don’t clump up. Let them drain over a bowl.
Cut the vegetables very thin and small, especially hard veggies like carrots and jicama.
I use a special Asian vegetable shaver to shave thin slices of carrots, cucumber and jicama. Halve the bean sprouts so they don’t poke through the rice paper. Tear herbs into small leaves.
Summer rolls are not too hard to make, but the trick is in rolling the sticky rice paper. It comes in a hard, almost plastic-like wafer.
I couldn’t believe it was the same thing as the soft wrapper. Magically it transforms when dipped in warm water. It softens and becomes thinner and pliable. If you dip it flat, it wants to curl up.
The trick is to hold it by the edges and rotate it through the water, then give it a quick dip in the water to wet the middle. The whole process should take about 5 seconds. If it stays too long in the water it will become too thin and tear easily, and stick to itself.
Place the rice paper on a dry plate. It will soften within seconds.
Put a lettuce leaf and a tablespoon of noodles first to add a cushion for the vegetables.
Then add a few vegetables, and a few mint, basil and cilantro leaves. Avoid over-stuffing the roll. I got excited by all the wonderful ingredients and wanted to add it all in as much as possible. My rolls became bulky and torn. Moderation in all things I remind myself.
Roll wrapper halfway, and then fold left and right sides over the filling. Lay 3 shrimp halves, cut side down, with several cilantro and mint leaves along the edge of the cylinder. Finish rolling up the summer roll.
Dip your summer roll in Hoisin Sauce or sweet chili sauce.