All spring rolls consist of a filling of minced veggies, or minced veggies and meats, wrapped with a thin rice paper sheet. Recipes for spring rolls vary according to the chef – and different fillings and cooking treatments distinguish the various versions. Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese cultures have adopted certain varieties, while in the United States, the spring roll sometimes looks more like the thicker wrapped, denser Chinese egg roll. Complex recipes exist, but you can easily roll up a batch of fresh or fried rolls without a lot of fuss.
Fresh, unfried spring rolls, sometimes called summer rolls, are most common in Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, as well as in Southern China. These are light and usually include seasonal vegetables along with a steamed or lightly baked protein -- tofu, shrimp or chicken are common. Serve them with peanut dipping sauce.
- 12 nine-inch size rice roll wrappers
- 12 butter lettuce leaves -- thick stems with veins removed
- 2 cups prepared cellophane noodles
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- Assorted vegetables such as finely sliced bell peppers, diced cucumber and bean sprouts
- 6 ounces of cooked cubed tofu, shrimp or chicken
- 2 cups of assorted fresh herbs -- primarily whole basil, Thai basil and mint leaves
Compile the Rolls
Fresh spring rolls are delicate and you have to work fast when making them. Keep the finished ones covered with a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out. Your best bet is soaking and filling each roll one at a time.
Fill a shallow bowl with warm water. Soak one wrapper in the water for about 30 seconds or until soft and pliable. Remove from the water carefully, allowing excess water to drip off.
Place the wrapper on a dry cutting board. Carefully add one layer of the butter lettuce.
Top the lettuce leaf with about 1 to 2 tablespoons of shredded carrots, about 1/4 cup of cellophane noodles and a smattering of assorted vegetables. Add a thin layer of the cubed tofu, shrimp or chicken and top with three to four herb leaves.
Wrap the roll by folding up the bottom of the wrapper over the filling, then fold in the sides. Continue to roll until complete.
Serve the rolls cold, cut in half on a diagonal with the dipping sauce. Spring rolls are best if served within 6 hours. Store them in the refrigerator for up to a day.
Fried Spring Rolls
Fried rolls are Chinese in origin and are made with a thin wheat-based wrapper. The fillings vary and might consist of flavored minced pork or shrimp, Chinese mushrooms and cooked vegetables.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
- 1/4 cup cloud ear, or white button mushrooms, minced
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 20 Chinese spring roll wrappers
- 1 cup cellophane noodles, soaked
- 1 cup shredded carrot
Compile the Rolls
Chinese wheat-based spring roll wrappers are often square, rather than circular like rice paper wrappers. They should already be pliable, so there's no need to soak them before use.
In a saute pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the ground pork and onion. Saute 3 to 4 minutes, and then add the minced mushrooms and soy sauce. Continue to cook until the pork is no longer pink. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a large bowl, mix together the cooked pork, noodles and shredded carrot.
Lay out one wrapper and fill with 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling, being cautious not to overfill.
Fold the rolls. Bend in one side of the wrapper over the filling, fold in the sides and continue to roll until complete. Set on a plate and cover with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out as you assemble the rest.
Fry the Rolls
In a wok or other shallow pan, heat about 1 cup of vegetable oil until almost smoking.
Place three to four spring rolls in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes. Put them in seam side down initially so they don't open as they fry. Turn them once or twice during the cooking process for even browning.
Remove the rolls to a paper towel to drain the excess oil. Serve whole or cut in half on a bed of shredded romaine lettuce and whole mint leaves with hoisin sauce or another dipping sauce.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.