Vietnamese Spring Rolls are very easy appetisers or party food to make. And because they are not fried like the more well known crispy fried spring rolls, they are amazingly healthy as well, filled with fresh ingredients, alongside any cooked meat you’d like to stuff them with.
In the West, these tend to be called summer spring rolls, but they don’t have to be a summer affair. In fact, we always make them for Chinese New Year, and that’s always in the winter!
These also make for great interactive entertaining. I love to have all the ingredients on the table and just let my guests help themselves to rolling their own spring rolls, much like a Taco Party! Just remember to have some bowls of water with some lemon juice for your guests to rinse their hands in afterwards. Or they can just head to the bathroom or kitchen sink!
My kids have fond memories of eating these Vietnamese Spring Rolls on one of the islands off the Mekong river, made with the local elephant fish. It was an absolutely delicious meal; the fish, as you can see below, was deep fried and crispy and as the rolls were all prepared for us at the table, we just had to sit back and enjoy the meal which also consisted of a prawn and vegetable soup, some rice and squid. Total yum!
When you come across this recipe online, the rolls are always filled with prawns (shrimp), a classic case of everyone copying everyone, I suppose, in this day of easy internet access. If truth be told, I’ve had these Vietnamese Spring Rolls filled with so many other meats besides prawns, whether it be fish, chicken, beef or pork.
And, I have to say, the prawn version is the blandest version of them all. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, given that half the beauty of this recipe lies in the dipping sauces you serve it with.
I’m giving you one of my recipes for Vietnamese Spring Rolls, these ones are filled with salmon and shiitake, 2 fairly strong-flavoured ingredients. The salmon and umami filled shiitake go very well together. They are only lightly seasoned and their prominent dispositions are noticeably tempered by the rice paper roll and the fresh vegetables and herbs, giving you a beautiful balance.
In fact, the whole spring roll is a seamless blend of bold, mild and aromatic. When it gets dunked into either dip, it takes on yet another level of flavour – sweet from the sweet chilli sauce and hot and sour from the dipping sauce.
That’s another thing you’ll find different in the recipe here – the dipping sauces. We shall serve them with what I think they go well with, not the bog standard, peanut and hoisin based sauce you’ll find in everyone else’s recipe!
I think the peanuts (or peanut butter) totally ruin the clean and sharp flavours of the gỏi cuốn. I always serve Vietnamese spring rolls with a hot and sour dipping sauce. You’ll find variations of this dipping sauce throughout the Thai and Vietnamese recipes on this site. I also love serving these with a sweet chilli sauce, click for homemade recipe.
Vegetarian Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Other Variations
Making a vegetarian or even vegan Vietnamese Spring Roll is very easily done. Tofu is super fantastic in this, sliced thinly and fried in just a little bit of vegetable or peanut oil. You could even grill the tofu but fried tofu is just too good to resist!
Can you use only vegetables and herbs in the Vietnamese Spring rolls? Sure, you can, and to add a different texture and flavour, some roasted or boiled edamame beans or any kind of beans will do perfectly.
You could also use any protein you fancy: other fish, chicken, quick cooking beef or lamb or thinly sliced pork. Briefly cook them with some soy sauce or salt before rolling. You can fry the meat or boil it in a pan of salted water.
How to roll Vietnamese Spring Rolls on YouTube
Essential Ingredients for Vietnamese Spring Rolls
These are made from just rice and water and are called bánh tráng in Vietnamese. They should be easily found in Oriental stores and most certainly online, and come in 2 – 3 different sizes and brands. Get the large ones, measuring about 22 cm (9″), give or take.
Wetting the rice paper is probably the only tricky part of the recipe, if you’re a novice. In my classes, many of my students feel the need to fully soften the paper, despite advice to the contrary, ending up with a sticky, gooey paper that misbehaves.
We basically dip the paper in for a couple of seconds and start rolling while it still has a stiffness about it. The rice paper will continue absorbing water and softening as you are working with it.
The rice noodles we use are rice vermicelli, fresh or dried does depend on what you have access to. I have access to fresh but still opt for the dried version as the fresh ones are always coated with oil. Always look at the cooking instructions on the packet, but as a general rule, one minute for fresh and 2 – 5 minutes for dried. We cook it to the al dente stage, where the noodles still retain a bite.
Pretty much any East or South East Asian herbs will go here: Japanese shiso (perilla), Vietnamese mint (daun kesum), chives, coriander leaves (cilantro). Regular mint is also great with the mix. Just go with what you have. At the very least, chives, spring onions (scallions) and coriander (cilantro) will do perfectly.
Let’s get started shall we? And if you need any visual guide on rolling the spring roll, watch the quick video above or/and see the image gallery.
Don’t forget to let me know what you think, these are my favourite kind of spring rolls!
- 450g (1 lb) salmon boneless, skinless
- 2 handfuls shiitake, sliced
- 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
- black or white pepper
- a handful of herbs of your choice, (see below)
- quarter cucumber, julienned
- half a small carrot, julienned
- 100 g (3.5 oz) dried rice vermicelli OR 2 handfuls fresh
- 6 – 8 rice paper rounds (bánh tráng)
- dipping sauce (see below)
- sweet chilli sauce click for recipe
- you will also need a shallow bowl of room temperature water
Herbs (any that you can get)
- 2 spring onions (scallions)
- small handful fresh coriander (cilantro)
- 5 mint leaves
- Vietnamese coriander
- Shiso leaves
- Thai basil
- 4 Tbsp fish sauce
- 4 Tbsp lime juice/rice wine vinegar
- half tsp palm of white sugar
- Thai Birds Eye Chilli, 1 red and 1 green, thinly sliced
- 1 spring onion/scallion, thinly sliced
- half a clove garlic, finely chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh coriander (cilantro)
- Mix everything together and leave aside for the flavours to develop while you attend to everything else.
- Place the salmon, shiitake, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and a dash of pepper in a large frying pan over medium high heat. There is no need for additional fat, as the fat from the salmon and the liquid from the mushrooms and soy sauce will suffice.
- Cook everything for about 3 – 5 minutes, breaking up the salmon as you go along, with your spatula. As the salmon breaks up easily as it’s cooking, I don’t bother slicing it prior to.
- Keep sautéing until the salmon is fully cooked, and all the liquid has dried up.
- Transfer to a plate and leave to cool, while you get the vegetables ready.
- If you have fresh rice vermicelli, cook them in simmering water for 1 minute.
- If you have the dried version, drop them in simmering water for 2 – 3 minutes, keeping a close eye on them, as each brand may be different.
- As soon as they are soft, drain, rinse in cool water, drain and set aside until needed.
Salad and Herbs
- Julienne (thing long strips) the carrot and cucumber.
- You could shred/slice the salad leaves and herbs as in the picture, or leave them whole. It’s a matter of preference.
- Take a look at the short video or the images for a visual demonstration.
- Quickly dip a rice paper in the bowl of water, shake off excess water and lay down on your work surface.
- Start with a layer of lettuce.
- Follow with a small bunch of the rice noodles.
- Next salmon and shiitake.
- Then some carrots and cucumber strips.
- Finally, a small amount of herbs.
- Pick the rice paper edge closest to you and roll over while tucking in the filling with your other fingers.
- Fold over one side of the rice paper.
- Fold over the other side.
- Finish rolling and place with finished spring roll with the fold on the underside.
- Serve immediately with the dip and sweet chilli sauce.
- Category: Starter
- Cuisine: Vietnamese