summer rolls w/ spicy peanut & sesame basil dipping sauces

summer rolls w/ spicy peanut & sesame basil dipping sauces

I love summer rolls for a number of reasons.

1. They’re pretty
2. They’re hand-held
3. You can dip them in sauce
4. They’re healthy
5. They are super tasty

I don’t like summer rolls for a few reasons.

1. They’re a pain to wrap
2. The rice paper is delicate as all hell and a pain to wrap
3. Man, are they ever a pain to wrap

I’ve always loved summer rolls. I just never got why they were so expensive. Five or Six dollars for some vegetables wrapped in rice paper? Why? I finally found some rice paper wraps at Whole Foods and thought I’d give them a go. How hard could they be?

Turns out, they’re not so easy. The five or six bucks is for labor, not ingredients. You have to dip the rice paper in warm water to soften it up. You can’t do more than one at a time or they’ll stick together (at least in my experience). And you have to be careful wrapping the little suckers or they’ll break and you’ll have to start all over again.

But they are tasty. Very tasty. Like a hand-held salad you dip in dressing. Maybe I just have to get the hang of it. Maybe, like dumplings, they just take practice. I’m sure I will try and try again until I get them right (I still have like 50 rice paper wraps in the pantry). Next time, I’ll also throw some shrimp in there. I think they need it. Everything is better with shrimp.

Summer Rolls

1 bowl warm water (hot to the touch, but not so hot you can’t dip your hands in there)
16 rice paper wraps (more for when they break)
4 large carrots, shredded
2 smallish cucumbers, shredded
2 oz. rice noodles, cooked*
1 cup cilantro leaves
7 steamed shrimp, de-tailed, de-veined and sliced in half lengthwise (optional)

Set yourself up with a working area similar to an assembly line. You’ll want things in this order: Rice paper and bowl of water, cilantro leaves, carrots and cucumbers (I keep them in the food processor container I use to shred them), rice noodles and shrimp. Ideally, you can stand in one place, a small cutting board (or counter area) in front of you, and everything I mentioned will be around the work surface.

Unless you have practice (or you’re naturally amazing at this, in which case, I’m envious), you’ll want to go one-by-one. Submerge a piece of rice paper in the warm water until it feels slightly slippery and supple (15 – 30 seconds). Remove with both hands and gently lay it on your work surface. You’ll want to keep the filling to 2/3 of the wrapper, so that you’ll be ables to seal them up with that last 1/3 of the rice paper.

Sprinkle the wrapper with a few cilantro leaves, about 1 – 2 tablespoons of the shredded carrots and cucumbers, a pinch of the rice noodles (you’ll figure out the right amount for this) and a piece of shrimp. Be careful not to overfill, or your summer roll won’t seal and you’ll have a bit of a mess on your hands.

Now carefully, carefully, begin wrapping it like you would a burrito. Start rolling it tightly from the side with the most stuffing on it. Once you’re 1/3 of the way wrapped, tuck in the edges and finish rolling it. You should have what looks like a (pretty!) tightly wrapped burrito. Stack them on a platter until you run out of filling or rice paper. Serve with fun dipping sauces.

*Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water for 10 minutes. They’ll be just the right amount of done at this point. To save time, I like to fill a large bowl with water and microwave it until the water boils (5 – 8 minutes depending on your microwave), then submerge the noodles in that. This way, you only have 1 bowl to wash. Once the noodles are done, drain them in a colander and run some cold water over them to stop them from becoming too mushy. Set aside. (Note: You make want to cut the noodles with some kitchen shears because they tend to be very long and make for some slightly messy eating. Just know that the Chinese are superstitious about noodle length and extra long noodles signify good luck!)

Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
Note: You might have to apply this sauce with a fork or spoon since those rolls are so darn delicate and the sauce is a bit thick.

3 tbsp. chunky, all-natural (organic) peanut butter (The kind where the ingredients are “Peanuts and salt”.)
1 tsp. Sriracha (or a pinch of red pepper flakes, 1 clove or garlic and scant 1/2 tsp. of white wine vinegar)
1/3 cup water

Add all the ingredients to a small food processor and blend until smooth.

Sesame Basil Dipping Sauce

1 cup basil leaves
1/3 cup unseasoned (brown) rice vinegar
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. fish sauce (optional)
2 tbsp. shoyu (or soy sauce)
1 tsp. sugar (or honey)

Add all the ingredients to a small food processor and blend until smooth.

11 Comments

  1. Oh, gosh, I’m drooling. But yeah, why or why do they have to be sooooo hard to roll?? Oh, well, I’m going to make these anyway. Thanks, Mel.

  2. Hi Kelly – They’re actually not as bad as I made them sound. I think I had extra-thin rice paper though. Let me know how yours turn out!

  3. These do sound very healthy! have to be feeling very patient to do that rolling, though! ;)

  4. Hi, after reading your entry I just wanted to give you a tip from my mom:

    If you are making multiple rolls, find plates about the same circumference and set them out. Next my mom has found that unless you have the thick wrappers, hot or warm water is really unnecessary. Just quickly spin one side the wrapper under a cold faucet, shake off the excess and slap it down on a plate. Wait a few minutes, and commence assembly line wrapping.

    You might have to wait a little longer for them to soften, but the wrapper is not as delicate, and time is on your side to prevent ripping.
    Also, its okay to roll the wrapper if its still hard in the center, it will soften up from the moisture from the innards.

  5. Thanks Ami!

    Those are wonderful tips. I thought they had to be completely soft or they’d crack. My husband might hate you for the multiple plate trick though – he’s the dishwasher :)

    I can’t wait to try them again…

  6. It was a little trial and error buying the right kind on rice paper (use the ones with tapioca in them) but the assembly was much easier than I had anticipated. I served them with a sesame basil dipping sauce I found on epicurious and they were a huge hit! Thanks Mel!

  7. Annie makes these every once in a while. I like the freshness of the salad. Try using red perilla leaves as well. Sometimes we put shrimp in it, sometimes tofu. If you can get it, shredded pork skin is pretty good too.

    If you have it, put a little hoisin sauce in the dip.

  8. I know exactly what you mean about wrapping those little suckers. They are hard. Mine did not come out as good as yours, so now I get my summer roll fix by just buying them at Whole Foods. BUT I make my own peanut sauce because they never give you enough sauce. I love the comments Nate (above) wrote about the Hoisin (good idea).

  9. Thanks for the tip, Nate!

    Dawn – I get them at WF too. Just wanted to try them on my own :)

  10. Pingback: summer roll remix: mango, basil & tea-infused noodles at bitchincamero

  11. Pingback: Softmechanic in the Kitchen: fall harvest « Michelle Yee RMT

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