How to make Vietnamese summer rolls
Uyen Luu, a food stylist, photographer and cook, takes us through her step-by-step guide on how to make Vietnamese summer rolls.
She says: “Summer rolls are like noodle salads wrapped in rice paper. There are many variations, but I like this one from Saigon, made with poached prawns, pork and lots of fresh herbs – the combination of flavours is a delight.
Instead of prawns and pork, you could use ceviche, steamed fish or blanched veg. The herbs can be tricky to track down, but the flavour and aroma they give make it worth the effort. Eat the rolls as snacks, canapés or for a light lunch.”
Before you start, read Uyen’s words of wisdom
- Use fine dried rice vermicelli, which gives a light texture. To cook, put the noodles into a large lidded pan. Cover with just-boiled water and add a pinch of salt and a dash of vinegar. Put the lid on and wait for 4-5 minutes, then test the noodles – they should still have some ‘bite’. Once they’re ready, drain and rinse thoroughly in hot water to wash off excess starch, which makes them stick together. Leave the noodles to drain in a covered colander until you’re ready to use them.
- The rice paper discs used here are called bánh tráng or bánh da nem. They’re made from white rice flour, tapioca flour, salt and water, then sun-dried. You need to dip them in water to make them soft and pliable. You can find them in oriental supermarkets, and online at souschef.co.uk.
- Cockscomb mint (rau kinh giói in Vietnamese), also called Vietnamese lemon balm, and perilla are often used in Vietnamese cuisine. They can be difficult to track down. If you have an Asian supermarket near you, try there, but if you can’t find them, you can use basil (Thai basil if you can find it).
Serves 4-6 as a starter or nibble; makes 6 rolls.
Takes 40 minutes to make, 30 minutes to cook
- 100g free-range pork belly
- 18 responsibly sourced king prawns in their shells
- 30g dried vermicelli noodles (or 150g cooked – skip step 3; see Uyen’s Words of Wisdom)
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 6 x 22cm rice paper wrappers (see Uyen’s words of wisdom)
- 6-12 gem lettuce leaves
- 12 fresh coriander sprigs, roughly chopped or torn
- 18 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped or torn
- 3 fresh cockscomb mint sprigs(see Uyen’s words of wisdom)
- 18 perilla leaves (see Uyen’s words of wisdom)
- 6 garlic chives, halved with head removed (optional, or use regular chives, whole)
For the dipping sauce
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- ½ tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp golden caster sugar
- ½ tbsp chilli sauce (we used Thai Taste Sweet Chilli Sauce)
- 2 tbsp unsalted shelled peanuts, crushed or blended
1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the pork belly and a few pinches of salt and cook for about 25 minutes with a lid on or until the juices run clear when the pork is pierced with a skewer. Remove, allow to cool, then cut off and discard the skin and slice the meat as thinly as possible.
2. Poach the prawns in boiling water with a pinch of salt for 2 minutes until cooked and pink, then drain. When cool enough to handle, peel the prawns, then leave to cool completely.
3. Put the noodles in a pan, pour over freshly boiled water, add a pinch of salt and the vinegar, then cover and leave for 5 minutes or until soft (see Uyen’s Words of Wisdom). Drain and rinse with hot water.
4. Put the remaining roll ingredients, prepared and ready, in separate containers on the work surface. Pour some warm water into a bowl or tray large enough to dip the rice paper in. Use a chopping board to make the rolls.
5. Dip a sheet of rice paper into the water and take out as soon as it’s all wet. Do not let it sit in the water. Lay it on the chopping board and leave for a minute until it’s soft enough to roll.
6. Imagining the round rice paper as a face, put all the items where the mouth would be. First line up three prawns and 1-2 lettuce leaves. Top with some noodles, a few pork slices and 2-3 sprigs/leaves each of the coriander, mint(s) and perilla. Don’t overfill, as you need to be able to roll it up and eat it.
7. Fold the two sides in to partially cover the filling, then fold up the bottom flap to cover the ingredients as if you’re making an envelope. Add 2-3 lengths of garlic chive so they stick out at one end.
8. Then, rolling tightly from the bottom with your thumbs and using your fingers to hold the filling in place.
9. Roll and compress as you go until you reach the end of the rice paper and have a compact summer roll.
10. The rolls are best served immediately, but you can keep them on damp kitchen paper in an airtight container or wrapped in cling film in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
11. For the dipping sauce, heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan. Fry the garlic until it browns slightly, add the hoisin sauce, vinegar, sugar, chilli sauce and 1 tbsp water, then bring to a gentle boil. To serve, pour the sauce – warm or cold – into dipping bowls, then sprinkle the crushed peanuts on top.
Nutritional information (per roll)
138kcals, 6.7g fat (1.7g saturated), 9.9g protein, 7.4g carbs (2.8g sugars), 0.3g salt, 0.1g fibre
On their own, these are great with chilled sauvignon blanc from Chile, but switch to off-dry German riesling if you’re having lots of the sweet dipping sauce.