I’ve been making these Vietnamese summer rolls (or spring rolls, whichever you prefer) a lot lately. I first had a craving for them on a particularly hot day since it requires minimal stove time and makes for a refreshing light dinner. Besides, Nathan had bought a bag of frozen shrimps for a Thai curry or something, so I saw it as my duty to help clean out the freezer.

Then just last week, my lab was treated to a celebration dinner at Incanto, one of my favorite restaurants in the city, where we got to partake in a Whole Beast Feast. The whole beast in question was an 85 lb piggie and needless to say, it was both delicious and unforgettable. But as it turned out, our lab eyes were way bigger than our lab stomachs, leaving us with box after box of leftover roast pork. Vietnamese spring rolls come to the rescue again, as I substituted shredded roast pork for shrimp.

Finally, just today while looking for a snack during housecleaning, I stared into a fridge that I’m trying to clear out before our Boston trip next week. I spotted a random piece of fried tofu left over from a round of sandwich making, and that became Vietnamese summer rolls round #3.

Before I forget, thank you to my former roomie Kim for teaching me how to make these!

There are no exact amounts for anything here because it mostly depends on personal taste. I myself prefer a very herby roll so I usually put in lots of basil, mint, and chives. You should also ideally make these as you’re eating them because they dry out quickly. If you really have to prepare them in advance, the best way I’ve found to keep the wrapper from drying out is tightly wrapping each roll in plastic wrap.

1 packet of rice paper (I prefer the Three Ladies Brand from Vietnam, available at Asian markets)
1 package of thin rice noodles aka vermicelli (be careful not to accidentally buy the mung bean vermicelli. Again, Three Ladies make these noodles too.)
1 bunch thai basil
1 bunch mint
1 bunch Chinese chives
Other filling as you desired: cooked shrimp, shredded pork, fried tofu

Dipping sauce:
Hoisin sauce
peanut butter
rice vinegar
hot water
Sriracha sauce (optional)

Prep ingredients: Bring a pot of water to boil, add in as much rice noodles as you need, stir to separate the strands, and turn off the heat. Cover the pot and let sit for a few minutes. After a few minutes, begin tasting the noodles for doneness. You’re aiming for slightly al dente and not mushy. Once done, rinse thoroughly in cold water and drain in a colander. Wash the herbs and spin dry. This can all be done several hours in advance. If the noodles become too sticky/dry, rinse quickly in cool water again and drain again right before dinner.

Make the dipping sauce: Start by scooping a spoonful of peanut butter into a small bowl. Add in about the same amount of hoisin sauce, a dash of vinegar, and stir. If the mixture is too thick and not sauce-like enough, add in hot water by the spoonful. Taste and adjust to your liking. If you want to add some heat, add in some Sriracha sauce, or serve with Sriracha on the side.

Assembling the rolls: Fill a large bowl with warm water and place in the center of the table, along with all the ingredients. Take a piece of rice paper and dip into the bowl – you want to wet all parts of the paper but there’s no need to soak it until it’s soft. Basically, I dip the rice paper into the bowl, rotate it all the way around to wet all parts, and then remove. By the time I’m done assembling the spring rolls, the wrapper will have absorbed enough water to be pliable but not so much that it tears easily.

Assemble your fillings on one end of the wrapper (see picture). Then roll up your spring roll like a small burrito – I fold the end closest to me over all the fillings, then the left and right side inwards, then continue rolling away from me. Serve with dipping sauce.