Cooking when it’s hot is really not an option. And frankly the same ‘ole salads get boring after awhile. So when my daughter made a request for these Vietnamese Summer Rolls, I couldn’t say no. In a perfect world, I would prepare each ingredient with care, hand-shredding the carrots and poaching the shrimp, for example. However summer in hell is not my idea of a perfect world, so I often buy pre-shredded carrots and frozen (cooked) shrimp. #AndIDon’tEvenCare.Jump to Recipe
I’m not going to lie to you, assembling these babies takes the better part of an hour. But if your kitchen table is correctly positioned under the air conditioner vent, and the right music is playing (and if it’s after 5 o’clock and you have an adult beverage in hand), you won’t mind the “work” of putting these together. The rice vermicelli and the rice paper wraps need only a brief soak in warm water to soften, which totally doesn’t count as cooking. Set your other ingredients out in neat little piles and you are ready to rock and roll.
SO HOW DO YOU MAKE VIETNAMESE SUMMER ROLLS?
There is something to be said for mise en place. Have everything you want to go in your rolls prepared and ready to go. I often use rice vermicelli as the base and top it with mixed greens, slivered green onions, julienned carrots, fresh mint and cilantro, and cooked shrimp that I’ve halved lengthwise.
Have a large bowl of hot water to the side. Place your rice paper wrap into the bowl of water, holding onto the edges. Let it soak for about 10 seconds, until it begins to yield and buckle under your fingers. The textured pattern (much like a manhole cover) will smooth out a bit. The wrap will be translucent, but still strong. If you let it soak too long it will tear. It should feel (and taste) similar to an al dente noodle. Carefully pull the wrap from the water and set it on a smooth surface (like a granite or marble counter top or a plate). Top it with your preferred toppings and roll it up as you would a burrito.
Place the finished roll on a platter and cover with a damp paper towel. Keep the rolls in the refrigerator, covered with a damp paper towel until you ready to serve them. I always make a peanut sauce for dipping. For dinner, expect each person to eat at least two or three of these. If you are serving them as appetizers, cut them in half and assume that everyone will eat about 1 1/2 of them, depending on how many other things you are serving.
I love having these for dinner, along with some cold watermelon on the side. Later we are, admittedly, a little hungry. But that’s okay, because we can eat a big bowl of ice cream and not feel the slightest bit of guilt.
Late summer, specifically late summer in these parts of Southern California, stretches into unforgiving and brutal weeks of 100 degree plus temperatures. We live like cockroaches (or vampires?), retreating behind closed blinds into the dark, stale, yet cool air forced through our houses by our over-worked air conditioners. The dog naps on the tile floor. Even the flies are lazy and easily snagged by the cats. I venture out, slathered with sunscreen, to water my beleaguered herbs, barely clinging to life in my window box. Back inside, and practically suffering from heat stroke, I pour myself yet another glass of iced tea, wishing it was October…or November…or December. Or at the very least 5 o’clock. And still there is dinner to make. But you can always keep it easy and cool with these Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce!
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Vietnamese Summer Rolls
- 1 package of rice vermicelli usually found in the Asian food aisle
- 1 package of round rice paper wraps (also found in the Asian foods aisle)
- 1 bunch cilantro stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
- 1 bunch mint stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
- 1 package of shredded carrots
- 1 package micro-greens or baby lettuces
- 1 cucumber peeled and cut into matchstick size pieces
- 2 scallions cut into matchstick size pieces
- 24 medium cooked shrimp halved lengthwise
For the Peanut Sauce
- ¼ cup chunky or smooth natural peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce optional
- 2 tablespoons gluten free tamari
- ½ teaspoon chile paste sambal oelek
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1-2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 scallion thinly sliced
- 1 clove of garlic grated
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated
- 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
- Bring a kettle full of water to boil. Place rice vermicelli in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the noodles and allow to soften until they become al-dente, about 8-10 minutes (follow package directions). Remove from the bowl, place in a colander and rinse with cool water. Place noodles in a bowl and set aside.
- Prepare the herbs, vegetables and shrimp, and set in piles or bowls on your work surface. Fill a large bowl with warm water.
- Submerge the first rice paper wrap in the bowl of warm water for about 10 seconds, until it becomes soft and pliable and the pattern on the wrap begins to fade. The wrap will be yielding and become transparent, but will still be strong and about as tender as an al-dente noodle. If you leave it too long in the water it will tear and begin to stick to itself much like cling wrap. When the wrap is sufficiently softened, remove it from the water and place it on a smooth surface, like a cutting board, large plate or counter top. Fill it first with a small portion of the rice noodles on one side, then top with small portions of the herbs, vegetables and finally about 4 shrimp halves. Fold in the sides of the wrapper, then one end. Then roll the whole thing up as you would a burrito. Set aside, covered with a damp paper towel and repeat with the remaining wraps. If desired, cut rolls in half. Refrigerate if not using right away, still covered with a damp paper towel.
- Make the dipping sauce by whisking the peanut butter with the fish sauce, soy sauce, chile paste and sesame oil. If it is very thick add 1-2 tablespoons of water and whisk again until smooth. Stir in the brown sugar, scallions, garlic, ginger and cilantro. Serve alongside the summer rolls.