Vietnamese summer rolls, (also known as fresh spring rolls or summer rolls) are a healthy, often low-fat meal or snack I’m a huge fan of. Gourmet magazine’s description – “a salad packed into an edible container” –says it all.
Once you’ve gathered all your ingredients, done your prep work, and mastered the basics, you can play around with the recipe to your heart’s content. Mock crab summer rolls are one of my favorites, but truthfully, there is no bad version of these. The same can be said about the endless dipping sauce options. To keep these simple (and quick) I like to serve these with just a little low-sodium soy sauce with just a splash of white vinegar, but others prefer sweet, spicy hoisin, sweet and sour or a classic peanut sauce and I totally support those options as well.
How To Stuff and Assemble Summer Rolls:
Shellfish or Meat Filling:
There are endless filling combinations. I use a readily available mock crab for this recipe *my son’r favorite), but shrimp, salmon, tofu, chicken, roasted pork, or straight vegetarian are all great options.
Lettuce of all varieties, cabbage, julienned carrots, cucumbers, avocados, scallions, daikon radish, you name it, anything with texture works in summer rolls.
Herbs play a big part in Vietnamese cooking – they’re often used more like a salad leaf than a garnish, and in the summer roll it’s no exception. My go-to in this recipe is cilantro, but mint, Thai basil or a combination are great options.
The gold standard is rice vermicelli noodles which I use and like to presoak in slightly salted water for about 4-5 minutes in hot water to soften. Other noodles can be used, rice stick noodles or other wider, flatter noodles but with these be careful to season them before rolling in your summer rolls.
Rice paper rounds can be commonly found in grocery stores (even Amazon carries them) and are used to make summer rolls but working with these takes a bit of practice. The wrapper must be soft enough to roll, but not so soft that it tears in the process. This takes a bit of practice. My method, dunking them in warm water and then rubbing them with wet hands until there are no longer any brittle patches. And lightly patting them dry afterwards with paper towel.
Sometimes you will see roasted peanuts, chilies, lemongrass are common go-to add-ins, go ahead get creative.
This is the trickiest aspect of summer rolls, but practice helps. It’s important to remember you will need less filling per summer roll than you think you’ll need. Otherwise, it’s hard to seal the rolls. I find it easiest to start with the lettuce and noodles then go from there. Fold the sides in first and then roll the paper up tightly around the filling.
Crab summer rolls (or any other variety) are a great meal option in summer and a fun project for kids. People ask me all the time how to get kids to heat more vegetables, as Master Chef Jacques Pépin says, “involve them in the process“. I agree 100%. Kids are often willing to try (and like) things they have made themselves. Take advantage of that and who knows, maybe you’ll even get a day off from cooking.
Crab Summer Rolls
- For the Summer Rolls:
- About 3 ounces rice vermicelli
- 12 rice paper wrappers
- 12 small soft lettuce leaves, I use iceberg or boston
- 2 Persian cucumbers, julienned
- 2 medium carrots peeled and julienned
- 3 scallions, trimmed and julienned
- 1-2 small avocados, ripe but firm
- 12 imitation crab sticks, julienned (or fresh crab)
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- Salt and pepper
- For the Soy Dipping Sauce:
- 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- Step 1 For the Summer Rolls: In a bowl of lightly salted boiling water, soak the noodles for about 5 minutes or until tender. Drain well and set aside.
- Step 2 In a large bowl of hot water, quickly dip one rice paper wrapper at a time, you’re your fingers to rub the water all over the wrapper until slightly softened but still has form. Gently pat on a dry cloth and quickly place on a work surface.
- Step 3 Place a lettuce leaf on the bottom third of the rice paper wrapper. Top about 2 tablespoons of rice vermicelli, some cucumber, a few scallions, carrots, mock crab meat (or toher), 2-3 sliced of avocado, some cilantro and a little salt.
- Step 4 Using your hands, carefully fold both sides of the sheet towards the center. Firmly roll to enclose the filling. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth and continue with the remaining ingredients. Do not stack the rolls or place them too close together as they may stick together. Serve with soy-vinegar dipping sauce. Note: summer rolls are best had served within a few hours of making.
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