Rice Paper Rolls of Herbs and Shrimp

Ellen Silverman
These fresh roll-ups have an impudent edge. Where most Vietnamese rolls depend on a dipping sauce for spark, here the sparks are flying inside the roll -- with garlic shrimp, hoisin noodles, mint, basil and lime and crisp marinated vegetables. 

Cook to Cook: Communal cooking is the way to go. Line up the ingredients and let friends roll their own. Each step of the recipe could be done several hours ahead and refrigerated. At will, substitute green papaya or under ripe avocado for the carrot and daikon.

You could do these early in the day, cover with a lightly dampened towel and refrigerate until serving time.

Wine: These rolls pair beautifully with McClaren Valley Unwooded Chardonnay

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce:
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 to 3 small fresh red Thai chiles, thinly sliced, to taste 
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2 to 3 limes) 
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup Asian Fish fish sauce (nuoc mam)
Shrimp:
  • 3/4 pound raw large shrimp, shelled and each shrimp cut into 4 small pieces
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon expeller-pressed canola or safflower oil
Carrot-Daikon Salad:
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/16-inch julienne
  • 6-inch piece daikon radish, peeled and cut into 1/16-inch julienne
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small fresh red Thai chile, thinly sliced
Noodles:
  • 6 ounces thin rice noodles
Assembling:
  • 16 8-inch rounds of rice paper (banh trang)
  • 8 Bibb lettuce leaves, halved and ribs removed
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • Juice of 1 medium lime
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups mint leaves, washed and dried
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves, washed and dried
1. Make the Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce: In a small bowl mix together all the ingredients starting with 1 chile and 1 tablespoon sugar and increasing to taste. Let the sauce rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. The sauce can be refrigerated for several days.

2. Make the Shrimp: In a large bowl, combine the shrimp with the garlic, fish sauce, and lime juice and sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes. Heat a 10-inch skillet over high heat, swirl in the oil and stir fry the shrimp for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until barely firm. Immediately turn out onto a plate and cool.

3. Make the Carrot-Daikon Salad: In a medium bowl, toss together the carrot, daikon, sugar, rice vinegar, salt and the chile. Let stand for 15 minutes, then drain and pat dry.

4.  Make the Noodles: Soak the noodles in a deep bowl covered with very hot tap water for about 5 to 8 minutes, or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water then drain again thoroughly. Spread the noodles out on a towel and pat dry before using.

5. Assemble the Spring Rolls: Moisten both sides of a rice paper round with hot running water. Spread it out on your work surface. In a few moments it will soften. Pat away any excess water.

6. At the top third of the round, put a small piece of lettuce that covers it by two thirds. Daub it with about 1/4 teaspoon hoisin sauce. On top of that spread a shallow pile of noodles, then several pieces of shrimp.  

7. Squeeze about 1/2 teaspoon lime juice over the shrimp. Top with a generous tablespoon or two of the carrot salad and 3 big mint leaves. 

8. Roll up by one third, tightly packing the filling as you go. Place about 3 coriander leaves and 3 smaller mint leaves atop the roll, fold in the sides over the herbs and tightly roll up the cylinder all the way. Spread them out on a platter as you make more. If holding for more than 30 minutes, refrigerate, covered. 

9. Serve the spring rolls by cutting each in half on the diagonal if you wish. Stand up the pieces on a platter accompanied by small bowls of room temperature Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce. 

Work Night Encore

Chicken Rice Noodle Soup: Prep extra noodles, fresh herbs, lettuce, and dipping sauce for a work night main dish soup.  Heat chicken broth, add 1/4 cup dipping sauce, half a thinly sliced onion, a minced garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon minced ginger for every 2 cups of broth. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir thinly sliced boneless chicken breast and rice noodles into the broth and heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls, scattering the soup with torn lettuce, lots of mint and basil. Season with fresh lime juice to taste.

From The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift, Clarkson Potter 2011.

Prep time: 
60 minutes prep time + 20 minutes assembly time
Total time: 
1 hour 20 minutes
Yield: 
Serves 4 to 8; makes 16 spring rolls and halves or doubles easily; or serve as part of a Vietnamese Menu
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