I’ve heard these rolls called many different things depending on who made them or where they’re sold. My absolute favorite rolls were called shrimp rolls at the Vietnamese Ba-Le bakery near my office in Hawaii. There are around 25 Ba-Le bakery/sandwich shops in Hawaii, but I found that after trying shrimp rolls at over 10 of them, the ones by my work were always the freshest. Maybe it was because I always got them around lunch time, but they were the best. I used to dance evenings in a hulu/jazz show in the International Marketplace in Waikiki. There was a little Thai stand in the food court that called theirs Thai Shrimp Rolls, they always put a dot of sriracha in their peanut sauce which gave it such a great kick that I started doing that at every place I went. There were two different Vietnamese restaurants near my first apartment that I’d buy them from, one called the Vietnamese Spring Rolls, the other simply called them Summer Rolls. Fortunately, every restaurant has a picture on the menu so it’s easy enough to know what you’re ordering.
I really don’t make these often enough at home. It’s not a difficult process, there’s just lots of fresh ingredients and they don’t keep that well for leftovers the next day, so for just the two of us we usually go to the Vietnamese restaurant down the street and get 2 for $3. But these are so cheap to make (just under 25 cents each!) that they’re great for a party or potluck. I got Eric to help me with promises that he could eat the first few he made, and so we set out our work station. It’s a lot easier and faster to put these together if you have all your ingredients laid out in a big area. You also need a pie pan of very warm water to soften your rice papers. I was going to write all about choosing a rice paper, and then found this great post to send you to instead. Now typically in restaurants, the shrimp rolls will be one large roll with 3-4 half shrimps and closed ends. I prefer to fold the rice paper in half so you can see the beautiful ingredients poking out (and it’s just easier for me to roll them tightly that way!) The most work for this is preparing the noodles, which takes a little time but it’s not really working time. I rinse the vermicelli in cool water, let them sit on a plate for 5 minutes, and repeat that 3 times before boiling them for 3 minutes. The packages I use always have instructions for soups or stir fries which don’t quite work with making summer rolls. Make these one at a time, it really is faster and easier that way, and don’t be afraid to eat some while you’re making them!
Shrimp Rolls Recipe
20 circle rice paper wrappers
20 cooked shrimp
40 basil leaves
40 mint leaves
1 carrot sliced into shreds with vegetable peeler
2 cups torn butter lettuce (or romaine without spines of leaves)
1 skein vermicelli rice noodles cooked
1 cup bean sprouts
4 stalks green onion finely chopped
pie pan of very warm water
Spread all ingredients out on a work surface. Remove tails from shrimp (if they’re still on) and cut shrimp in half lengthwise.
Dip a rice wrapper into the warm water until soft and pliable. On a clean dry cutting board, fold it in half so you have the straight line of the half circle at the top. Place your filling a little off the center in a vertical line. Start with two shrimp halves end to end, cut side up (so the pink shows through when it’s wrapped). Top with two basil leaves, two mint leaves, and a small portion of each remaining ingredient. Arrange so ingredients will be peeking out of one or both ends.
Starting at the corner your filling is closest to, wrap that corner over filling, (If you only want ingredients showing from one end, fold an inch of the bottom up right now) then begin rolling tightly. Place seam side down on a large platter and cover with plastic wrap.
Peanut Sauce Recipe
makes 1 cup
1 TBS olive oil or vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic minced or grated w/microplane
1/4 cup hoisin
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup water
Heat oil in a saucepan on medium high heat, add garlic and fry 3 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer until well mixed, add a little more water if you want it thinner. Keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, or it freezes well.
Approximate cost per serving: about 25 cents for one roll dipped into peanut sauce
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: for vegetarian leave out the shrimp, both the wrappers and noodles are gluten free.
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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.