Soft Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Fresh Mint
I enjoyed these delicate and delightful snacks in Vietnamese cafes in the northeastern Thai metropolis of Ubon Rachatahnii, which, like most larger towns in the vicinity of the Mekong river, has a sizable Vietnamese community. Soft spring rolls are a pleasure to see and to eat, and simple to make if you set up a small assembly line with all the components ready to roll up. The secret Thai ingredient here is an extra pairs of hands, to make the job sa-nuk: light-hearted, happy, interesting, and fun. Recruit some helpers and make a double or triple batch. You can hold them for several hours at room temperature, loosely covered with a damp kitchen towel or a sheet of plastic wrap. Serve with Sweet-Hot Garlic Sauce or prik nahm plah, a small bowl of fish sauce topped with minced fresh hot green chilies.
Makes8 to 10 rolls
Total Timeunder 1 hour
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cocktail Party
Recipe Coursecold appetizer, hors d'oeuvre
Dietary Considerationegg-free, healthy, low-fat
Taste and Textureherby, light, savory
- 8 ounces very thin dried rice noodles
- 12 round rice paper sheets, about 8 inches in diameter
- 10 leaves of bibb, Boston, or other tender lettuce, cut crosswise into 1-inch strips (about 2 cups loosely packed)
- ½ cup fresh mint leaves
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 5 green onions, cut in 3-inch lengths and chopped lengthwise into thin strips
- 12 medium shrimp, cooked, peeled, and halved lengthwise
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Drop in the rice noodles, and remove from the heat. Let stand 8 to 10 minutes, gently lifting and stirring the noodles now and then as they soften, to keep them separate and to cook evenly. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain well, and set aside. You should have about 2 cups of noodles.
Arrange all the ingredients separately around a large cutting board or tray set before you. Set out a platter to hold the finished rolls, as well as a large skillet or shallow bowl filled with very warm water.
To make each roll, slide 1 sheet of rice paper into the pan of water and press gently to submerge it for about 15 seconds. Remove it carefully, draining the water, and place it before you on the cutting board.
Line up a horizontal row of each of the following ingredients on the rice paper sheet, starting on the lowest third of the sheet and working away from you: a small tangle of noodles (about ¼cup), a row of lettuce strips, a row of mint leaves, a row of cilantro leaves, and a row of green onion slivers on top.
Lift the wrapper edge nearest to you and roll it away from you, up and over the fillings, tucking it in under them about halfway along the wrapper and compressing everything gently into a cylinder shape. When you’ve completely enclosed the filling in one good turn, fold in the right and left sides tightly, as though making an envelope. Then place 2 shrimp halves, pink-side down, on the rice sheet just above the cylinder. Continue rolling up the wrapper and press the seam to close it, wetting it with a little splash of water if it has dried out too much to seal itself closed.
Set the roll aside on the platter to dry, seam-side down. Continue to fill and roll up the rice paper sheets with the remaining ingredients until you have made 8 to 10 rolls. Set aside.
To serve, present the rolls whole, or halved crosswise, straight or on the diagonal, or trim away ends and cut into bite-sized lengths.
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2004 Nancie McDermott