Yield
Serves 4

For these fresh, light spring rolls, you simply soften thin, crisp rice paper rounds and roll them up with whatever you'd like (cooked meat and/or vegetables), or try the classic Vietnamese blend of lettuce, rice noodles, fresh herbs, shrimp and pork (bought already cooked at Asian markets). There's no frying and the rolls keep for hours under a dampened paper towel in the refrigerator. Serve them with the sweet-tart dipping sauce.

Cook to Cook: The rice "paper" (really a cooked rice flour batter) is crisp and flat when you buy it. Once moistened with water, it turns into a pliable noodle that seals itself as you roll it up. Two tricks to remember: Don't overfill the rolls, and if young ones have trouble with breaking rice paper, just use two pieces instead of one.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound vermicelli rice noodle, cooked in boiling water to barely tender, drained, rinsed and drained again
  • 1/2 pound Asian barbecued pork, beef or chicken, thin sliced
  • 1/2 pound cooked shrimp, halved lengthwise
  • 12 lettuce leaves, washed, dried and thin sliced
  • 1 to 2 cups shredded carrots, or other vegetables shredded on a cheese grater
  • 1 bunch spearmint, washed and dried
  • 1 bunch coriander or basil, washed and dried
  • 20 rice paper rounds (6- to 7-inch diameter)


Instructions

1. Place ingredients within easy reach of everyone. Moisten rice paper by rubbing with water. Let stand a few moments until softened.

2. On the bottom third of the rice-paper round, make a small pile of rice noodles, a few shreds of meat, half a shrimp, some lettuce, carrot, and a leaf of each herb.

3. Roll up the round over the filling, taking it halfway up the uncovered portion of rice paper. Now fold in the side flaps and continue rolling until you have a tight cylinder. Put on a plate and keep covered with a damp cloth.

4. Serve garnished with sprigs of mint and with individual bowls of dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce (keeps 2 weeks in the fridge):
Small children might find the chile too hot, so have everyone add it to taste to their sauce at the table.

  • 1/3 -1/2 cup water
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce (called "Nuoc Mam")
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Chile paste or hot red pepper flakes to taste

1. Put everything in a screw-top jar and shake together. Taste for sweet-tart balance, adding more lime or sugar as needed. Let mellow about 30 minutes before pouring into individual dipping bowls.