This classic Vietnamese preparation, with its pliable white rice paper wraps, salad-like filling, and flavorful dipping sauces, takes a little practice, but not much — you’ll get good at it pretty quickly. Think of this recipe as an outline for any kind of summer roll you like; the filling can be anything from tofu to shredded vegetables to slices of fruit.
Working with rice paper wrappers is not rocket science. All they need is a dip in hot water to soften up and become pliable; they’ll continue to soften a bit after they’ve been rolled. The two most common mistakes people make with rice paper is letting it soak too long (it’ll become mushy and tear easily) and making the rolls too far in advance, which results in the wrapper drying out. So remember to keep the hot water dip short and to serve the rolls immediately or wrap well with plastic and serve within an hour.
For dipping, try Peanut Sauce, Four Ways (page 657), Fishless Fish Sauce (page 656), Ponzu (page 657), Basil Dipping Sauce (664), Chile-Garlic Paste (page 665), or just soy sauce with vinegar or water.
- Yield: 4 to 8 Servings
- 8 sheets rice paper, 10 or 12 inches in diameter
- 8 –10 tender lettuce leaves, like Boston, washed,
- dried, and torn
- 14 -ounce bundle rice vermicelli, soaked in hot water
- until softened (about 10 minutes) and drained
- 2 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces and then thinly sliced
- 2 carrots, thinly julienned or grated
- ¼ cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
- ½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
- ½ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, preferably Thai
- Lime wedges for garnish
- Set up a work station: Lay out a damp kitchen or paper towel on the work surface and a wide, shallow bowl of hot water (110° to 120°F, which is about what hot water measures from most taps). Line up a stack of rice paper and the containers of the remaining ingredients (except the lime wedges), in order. At the end, put a plate or baking sheet large enough to hold the completed rolls in one layer.
- Dip a sheet of the rice paper in the hot water, turning once, until soft, about 10 seconds. Lay it flat on the towel. On the bottom third of the rice paper, spread an eighth of each of the remaining ingredients in a line. Fold in the bottom edge and both sides, then roll tightly into a cylinder, like a burrito (see page 622). The rice paper will adhere to itself. Put the roll on the plate, seam side down. Repeat this process with the remaining ingredients.
- Serve with the lime wedges and your choice of dipping sauce. Or wrap in damp paper towels and plastic wrap and serve within an hour or so with the lime wedges.