Summer (or spring) rolls are like mini salads turned into finger food. Tucked in translucent little packages are bright carrots, crisp lettuce, fresh basil, and pork. Since the warm weather got me craving summer rolls, I searched in Jaden Hair’s cookbook, Steamy kitchen cookbook, and found the perfect recipe.
Jaden suggests having each family member roll his or her own rolls. I was more than happy to take the suggestion, and my kids had a blast filling and rolling their summer rolls.
Be sure to make the peanut sauce to accompany the rolls. I found it so yummy that I used it to dress my salad the next day.
You can find rice paper wrappers and lemongrass in either Asian market in town, and the sauces such as hoisin and sweet chili sauce can also be found in the Asian section of your grocery store.
Vietnamese Summer Roll
Serves 6 as an appetizer, snack, or part of multicourse meal
1 12-oz package rice paper wrappers
1 head soft, leafy green lettuce, leaves separated
1 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 big handful fresh mint
1 big handful fresh Thai basil or sweet Italian basin leaves
1 lb pork tenderloin, roast or chops
1 lemongrass stalk, outer leaves peels until you reach pale yellow leaves, bottom 3-inch of stalk grated with rasp grater, or 1 tsp lime zest
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
To prepare the lemongrass pork: slice the pork as thin as you possibly can. To make it easier to slice, place the pork in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up. Or you can bribe your meat peeps at the butcher counter to slice it for you on their big, fancy, machines.
In a bowl, combine the sliced pork with the rest of the lemongrass pork ingredients and marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
In the meantime, prepare the vegetables and herbs for the rolls.
Heat a wok or frying pan until very hot. Add the marinated pork slices in a single layer. You may have to do this in a couple of batches. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, depending on how thin you’ve sliced your meat.
Have the cooked lemongrass pork, rice paper wrappers, vegetables, and herbs ready on your work surface to roll, or arrange the ingredients on your dinner table and have everyone roll their own summer rolls.
To assemble the rolls
Fill a pie tin, a large shallow bowl, or a deep plate with warm (not hot!) water. Dip the edge of a rice paper in the water and quickly use both hands to turn the rice paper so that each side can dip in the water for 2 seconds.
Lay the still-stiff rice paper on a clean, dry surface. Fold the rice paper in half. The paper should be pliable and may still be a bit stiff. If the rice paper is floppy, soggy, and too slippery, try using cooler water or dipping the paper in the water for a shorter amount of time.
On the bottom half, lay your lettuce first to create a bed for the vegetables and juicy meat. Layer or your vegetables, meat, and herbs. Do not overstuff! Each roll should only have 1 to 2 pieces of meat.
Starting from the bottom, roll up. Tuck the ingredients in as you get that first turn to create a tighter roll.
Continue rolling and you can make a slight tug back on the roll to make tighter. If your work surface is dry, tugging will be easy. Wipe your work surface dry before rolling your next roll.
Peanut dipping sauce
2 tsp cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
3 T sweet chili sauce
2 T hoisin sauce
⅔ cups water
3 T peanut butter
Heat the oil in small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the oil is just starting to get hot, add the garlic and ginger and fry for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the sweet chili sauce, hoisin sauce, water, and peanut butter and stir until smooth. Simmer until thickened. Let cool. Keeps in refrigerator for up to 1 week.