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Vietnamese Summer Rolls/Spring Rolls


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I wasn't sure where to start this thread, at first I thought about in the Other Asian forum, but then I figured it was a cooking technique problem I had. So here I am... :unsure:

After reading Nessa's foodblog I got inspired to try her spring rolls as the recipe seemed straight-forward, easy and the results looked delicious. I was looking forward to a nice summer munchy and even bought the special Chee Hou sauce she mentions.

So I tried. I carefully proceeded through the recipe, not substituting or taking any deviations. However, my result was a mess. The spring roll wrappers (I bought a package in my local Chinatown District, I think it was something like TLJ Spring Roll Pastry) basically fell apart when dipped in water. So I stopped dipping them, but then when rolling them up, they wouldn't stick together. Plus they kept breaking and I had to double wrap them. Aargh.

The recipe takes marinated and then drained napa cabbage and carrots which I food-processed to fine bits, then I soaked bean threads and cut them into small pieces, and finally some cooked chicken and scallions that were marinated and processed to bits. When I did eat the spring rolls, the wrapper was not the springy taste sensation I expected but was alittle papery. To top it off, the filling was too fluffy, not dense with a good crunch like the spring rolls I know. I tried to steam them for a bit, thinking this would help to make them springy, but no, it only made them fall apart more.

So where did I go wrong? BTW, looking back at Nessa's blog, I see that her wrapper in the photo did not look anything like mine. Hers was more transparent and looked rubbery.

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It does sound like you bought the wrong spring roll wrappers. There are two different things called "spring roll wrappers". It looks like the ones you bought are the dough based ones that are similar to wonton and egg roll wrappers; these are intended to be used for making Chinese fried spring rolls. The ones you want are made of rice paper (or tapioca flour), and used for Vietnamese uncooked spring rolls.

Did you find your wrappers in the refrigerated section? The ones you want are dried, so they won't be in the refrigerator. They'll probably be near the dried noodles.

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Yes Laurel, I found a bunch of different brands in the fridge section and grabbed that package as it was the right size. You're right, the Chinese spring roll might mean the deep fried kind. I forgot to check if they were made of rice.

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It does sound like you bought the wrong spring roll wrappers... The ones you want are made of rice paper (or tapioca flour), and used for Vietnamese uncooked spring rolls.

laurel's right, and if you need a reference to find them in the Vietnamese or Asian grocery, they're called "banh trang", and they come in a flat plastic mini-drum, sometimes with a rose on the package.

good luck! :smile:

gus

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the ocean."

--Isak Dinesen

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They also usually have a basket weave pattern on the dried sheets (square or round) from when they were dried on bamboo mats. I usually have a couple of clean damp tea towels or paper towels on the counter next to the dipping container. Dip for a few seconds then lay it on a tea towel. Fold over the towel or lay another towel on top. Dip the next wrapper, and lay on towel. By the time the third wrapper is being layered in the toweling, the first is ready to use for rolling.

Edited for clarity.

Edited by Rachel Perlow (log)
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Yes, you want the rice-paper kind, as everyone else has already reminded you.

Re: the fluffiness

First, as you layer the filling ingredients on the paper, compact them a little by squeezing gently. Squeeze a little as you bring the paper over the pile of filling. Then as you roll them, you have to keep pressing gently on the filled roll. That is, as you roll forward with your thumbs, squeeze gently and push the whole thing back toward itself with the rest of your fingers (curled over the top). (Sorry, it's a little hard to describe, but easy to get the hang of.) The main thing to remember is: squeeze gently while rolling.

Also, if by "processed to bits" you mean chopped up, don't do that. Shreds work well, everything stretched the long way across (perpendicular to the direction you'll roll. As does leaving the bean threads almost whole (just a few snips).

I used to make them at work, first layering whole basil leaves, then bean threads, chiffonade romaine, julienne carrot, cubes of avocado, matchsticks of cucumber, and butterflied steamed shrimp. (Might have things out of order, but you get the idea.) Just a very thin layer of each, lightly tamped down.

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*** Damp tea towels or paper towels between each briefly soaked wrapper.***

I'm glad other people use this method as well. Whenever I do this I get these looks as if I just burned a bundle of hundred dollar bills. And to add a little personal preference, I like to keep all the ingredients that are going into the spring roll unseasoned and then make a nice salty dipping sauce. This way the rolls stay crunchy and springy.

"He could blanch anything in the fryolator and finish it in the microwave or under the salamander. Talented guy."

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Thanks everybody for all the helpful hints! :biggrin:

Last night I went to my local regular market and found the Banh Trang (sp) wrappers in the non-refrigerator asian foods area. Cool, I can't wait to try out the things people have suggested...

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*** Damp tea towels or paper towels between each briefly soaked wrapper.***

I'm glad other people use this method as well. Whenever I do this I get these looks as if I just burned a bundle of hundred dollar bills.

Yes, they don't soften immediately, so they need that rest of a minute or so to make them easier to roll. What's funny about what you just said is how cheap the banh trang are, buy an extra package in case you mess up a few.

Other tips, try to add the shrimp in such a way that it shows through on the rice paper top of the roll. And/or add herbs in a way that they show on top or stick out the ends slightly, this works well for chives and cilantro.

Also, my local Vietnamese place calls these Summer Rolls. Their spring rolls are fried.

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I find that if you don't layer on towelling of some sort, they are too wet to roll.

If you have the old wraps and the processed filling still, try rolling 'em up using a cornstarch and water "sealer" to keep them closed, then deep fry them!

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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My Chinese friend, Chelsea, taught me to make spring rolls. We do use the same tapioca-rice wrappers with the rose on the front. However, her method is to put the dry wrapper on a cutting board (or counter top) and sprinkle water from a bowl onto the wrapper, turn it over, and sprinkle it again, spreading the water around with her fingertips. The water only takes a few seconds to absorb into the wrapper.

As for keeping them crunchy, I think there are two keys; one, don't MINCE everything, shredded vegetables (or julienne) work fine, and two, roll fairly tightly.

Check out these illustrations for a great lesson: http://www.geocities.com/emaildaneng/goicuon.html

I hope this is helpful!

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Yeah.  They're talking about summer rolls.  I'm also blanking on the Vietnamese name.

Goi cuon.

Yes, goi cuon literally translates into salad rolls in Vietnamese. Goi is the generic term for Viet special event salads and cuon means to roll or a roll of something.

Glad to know that the rolls are being enjoyed all over the world!

Andrea

Andrea Q. Nguyen

Author, food writer, teacher

Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors (Ten Speed Press, Oct. 2006)

Vietworldkitchen.com

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Closer but definitely no cigar... :hmmm:

Okay, just got done with another batch using the Banh Trang wrappers - well what a difference the right wrapper makes! This time I used no processor for the veggies, just a knife. Nor did I marinate anything, just using the pickled cukes I had. So using what I could find in the fridge, I attempted to julienne some carrot (um, that attempt basically made them matchstick and too thick and yes, they can easily poke through the wrapper as someone pointed out), also julienned scallion and pickled cucumber. Had basil leaves which I left whole and cilantro. Softened vermicelli and used that water from a boil to soften the rice wrappers. Finally steamed shrimp. You can never have too much shrimp I found out... But I should have butterflied them before I steamed them.

Then the rolling. Well this must be the slowest, messiest thing to do. My kitchen is a mess and there are no spring rolls left, however, so they must have been edible! First I rolled and put too little in but it rolled easily and the ends tucked in. At least it looked presentable. When I started putting more into them, however, I had trouble getting everything tucked in. I never did get a tight roll with all the innards compact. In some cases I discovered I had softened the wrapper too much and it preferred to stick to my fingers and the plate rather than to itself. :angry: I had to eat this type holding it over my bowl of Mae Ploy dipping sauce and most of it falling into the dish.

My second attempt at least tasted alot better than the first so I'm encouraged. But I wonder if I'll ever be able to keep myself from eating them all as I make them, in order to have leftovers! :shock:

I truly appreciate the work that goes into this and I don't think I'm ready for the assembly line yet though.

Next I'll do as johnnyd suggests and use the other wrappers for doing a deep fried spring roll. That ought to be a blast...

By the way Rachel, I haven't heard of the term summer roll. Our Viet places call these non fried rolls "spring rolls." This is in Seattle.

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Hmmm...spring rolls...just what Chelsea taught me to make.

Rolling them is a technique that is perfected by repetition.

I would NOT suggest trying to make these too far ahead of consumption in order to have "leftovers"...a few hours at most, covered by a damp towel.

Even though I have few posts on this forum, I know this topic well.

I HOPE this is helpful.

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My local Asian markets actually have three types of wrappers: egg roll wrappers (similar to pasta; probably akin to what we think of wonton wrappers), the rice/basket weave ones, and some thin "crepey" things that I think are the best if one wonts to do fried "spring rolls." But, for summer rolls, the rice/basket weave ones are best. Hot water. They keep well, once made, if covered with a wet paper towel or flour sack dish cloth and covered with plastic wrap.

If the veg contains a lot of water, it may help to shred, salt and drain, then rinse and squeeze dry in a dish cloth.

As you fill, keep the notorious stickler's instructions close at hand. A few trys, and they will look picture perfect. As usual, SuzanneF is spot on :wub: .

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Exactly! I kept my laptop on with this page up so I could run into the living room and check up on what I should be doing next. I did try to keep the greenery and shrimp at the bottom of the roll so they would show through...at least I can pretend to be aesthetically inclined instead of just a greedy spring roll pig.

It sounds like spring rolls should be prepared and eaten within the same time frame. No holding over a day.

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Yes, no holding for more than a few hours. Well, you could make them for dinner and have a couple for lunch the next day, but they won't be as good. I think part of the problem may be the cabbage (I just reread your original thread). I use lettuce as the greens (besides the herbs). OK try this next time:

briefly (2 minutes or so) boiled or steamed vietnamese angel hair noodles (rinse and toss with a tiny bit of neutral oil to keep from sticking together)

shredded (with a knife) red or green leaf lettuce

shredded or grated carrots (not julienned)

julienned or small batons of pickled red bell pepper, carrots, jicama, daikon radish (use any or all, at least the carrots, you want a little pickled veg in there)

julienned cucumber (this I don't like pickled)

bean sprouts (trim into 1 inch pieces, trim off large bean ends)

herbs: cilantro, thai basil, mint, parsley, chives, scallions (cut into long thin strips) (both whole and torn) (pick two or three)

meat: warm or cold grilled chicken, duck, pork or beef cut into thin strips; or shrimp, boiled or steamed, then peel and cut in half lengthwise (not just butterflied); you can also use cooked vegetables, warm or cold, instead of meat.

The link msphoebe provided above has good instructions, but I don't think you need to use boiling water to soak the wrappers, just hot. Here's my method:

Do the soak and rest between paper towels thing with 3 wrappers. Turn them over and start with the first wrapper. Lay it out on the counter, on top of a damp paper towel. Lay two or three shrimp halves (if using other meat, they go in the middle), pretty side down in the middle of the wrapper. Place a small handful of noodles on top of the shrimp, then the lettuce, other vegetables and a sprinkling of torn herbs. Roll up the bottom and tuck in the sides. Lay a whole herb across so that the ends stick out just a bit from the sides. Finish rolling up the top. Either eat as you go, immediately, or if you need to store them for a few hours, lay them on a paper towel lined plate, cover with a damp cloth. For just an hour they should be fine at room temp. Fo longer, place in the fridge. For overnight, wrap individually in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for no more than 1 day.

Do not use warm meat in any roll that will not be consumed immediately.

In addition to nuoc cham as a dipping sauce, I like nuoc leo as well. This is a peanut hoisin sauce. Most recipes are very complicated, but I've made a shortcut version, (I think I found it in The Foods of Vietnam by Nicole Routhier), using equal parts hoisin and peanut butter, a bit of chili sauce and a sprinking of chopped peanuts (or use chunky peanut butter).

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Thanks Rachel for the detailed instructions! :smile:

Last night I didn't use cabbage as I didn't have any, I had just scallions, pickled cukes and carrots. I will also try to get some daikon radish as I'd like to try that and bean sprouts.

I did notice that I didn't need to leave the wrapper in warm water very long, just a few seconds before it was ready to work. And you're right, these wrappers are so cheap that one can afford a few mistakes. Well I actually just eat my mistakes and go on to the next try....

So far, I've gotten the Chee Hou sauce and used that in my first try, then last night I used the Mae Ploy - I really like a hot, sweet sauce. Thanks for your suggestions of dipping sauces. There's so many ways to do this!

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Regarding Banh Trang wrappers, what brand do you all prefer?

The Vietnamese grocery store that I go to must have a dozen or so to choose from. The last brand I bought (Sword Fish Brand) isn't very good. I think they are too thin, so they virtually dissolve after a brief soaking in water. Funny thing is that they were the most expensive brand in the store :hmmm: ...

$1.49 :laugh:

Anyway, I'd like to hear what brands people are using so that when I get through this bunch, I can purchase a better wrap.

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her method is to put the dry wrapper on a cutting board (or counter top) and sprinkle water from a bowl onto the wrapper, turn it over, and sprinkle it again, spreading the water around with her fingertips. The water only takes a few seconds to absorb into the wrapper.

No, I wouldn't use boiling water, either. The above method works just fine. If you really feel a need to soak the wrappers, don't soak them too long or they will most definitely tear.

I use the Vietnamese wrappers with the Rose on the package.

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I made beautiful spring rolls tonight.... and just finished eating all of them! :wub:

This time I was very careful and exact. While I worked, I sipped on a nice, cold French rose...

I took the moist paper towel approach detailed by Rachel above. First I assembled all my ingrediants. I had daikon radish which I shredded finely with carrot and marinated these in rice wine and a touch of sugar. Bean threads. Basil and cilantro. Steamed shrimp (ugh, butterflying them and then steaming them made them go really crooked!). Julienned scallions. So mise en place at hand, I then dipped a wrapper into the warm water and took it out while still somewhat firm and put this on a moist paper towel. Then went on to the next and layered three into paper towels. Taking the first which had by then become soft, I lay it on paper towel at first, but this tended to be sticky, so I ended up wrapping on the tile counter which worked well. I made sure to keep the ends free when piling everything on so I could tuck them in well.

I don't know if it's because I let the wrappers rest and they were somewhat dry, not as wet before, but I had much better luck wrapping and the wrapper stuck to itself rather than to my fingers. Ah, success! I made a whole plate of them and they were beautiful, nothing broken or falling out. I even worked on making them pretty by using whole basil leaves and letting them stick out a bit.

Keeping these on a plate under the paper toweling, I used the leftovers of bean threads and vegetables by stir frying them and then adding oyster sauce and a touch of soy with a couple slices of diced bacon. I love this dish. My chinese friend's family calls a simpler variation of this typhon (sp)...don't know if that's what I really make or not though but it's tasty and I could eat it a couple times a week.

Now I don't yet have a digital camera although I may by the end of this week; otherwise, you would be seeing the digital proof of my pretty ones. Thanks to all, I think I'm on my way to success with spring/summer rolls! :biggrin:

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