You can find them by different names, depending on who does the translation: spring rolls, garden rolls, or summer rolls. Only one name in Vietnamese: goi cuon, means salad in a roll.
They are a very popular southern food in Vietnam. In the south, the soil, nurtured for countless centuries by rivers and a favorable climate, is rich for abundant vegetables and rice. People are clever to use them in their cuisine culture every chance they get. From rice they make rice papers, the vehicle to carry other stuffing like pork, beef, fish, seafood, eggs, and fresh vegetables. It is easy to acquire these items, often found as close as right out of the front door.
The rolls have been loved since the first time they appeared, and are carried by the people everywhere they go. They were first introduced beyond Vietnam’s borders by early Vietnamese immigrants. All of a sudden, goi cuon went global. They are now eaten as snacks, appetizers, or main courses. They are grabbed by street food lovers as well as appreciated on formal dining tables.
This dish is served with peanut sauce, which is sweet, salty, spicy and sprinkled with crushed toasted peanuts. The best part is that they are very healthy, delicious, and easy to make.This dish is rated by CNN as a healthy food, safe and easy to use.
In my family, we make them a “wrap your own”event. We lay all the ingredients down on the table. Each diner chooses vegetables of their choice and the quantity is up to them. We observe that children typically omit some vegetable early in their life, then pick up more over the years. The same is true with chili in the sauce, for a kick that one can tolerate.
SPRING ROLLS: Yields 16 5-inch spring rolls
8 oz pork loin 16 raw medium shrimp 8 large Romaine, red leaf or Boston lettuce leaves, thick stem ends removed and cut into 5 inch length 1 cup mint leaves, washed and drained
½ cup Thai basil leaves, washed and drained ½ bunch fresh cilantro stalks, washed and drained, cut into inch 5 inch length
½ bunch chives, washed and drained, cut into 5 inch length
2 small cucumbers, washed and sliced thinly into 5 inch length
4 radishes, washed and sliced thinly
4 ounces thin rice vermicelli or rice stick noodles (bun)
16 rounds of rice paper (banh trang), each 8 inches in diameter
1 tablespoon oil 2 garlic cloves, minced
3 stalks green onion, chopped
¼ onion, chopped 1 cup stock, reserved from cooking pork and shrimp 1 cup water 1 tablespoon sugar 1 cup peanut butter 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili sauce (like Siracha brand)
In a medium saucepan, bring several cups of water to boil. Add vermicelli and cook until just softened, 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to boil, add pork and cook for 5’. Add shrimps and cook for 3’. Remove the shrimps so that they are not overcooked. Cover the pan, leaving the pork to simmer over lowest heat for 10-15’ more until the pork is just cooked. Reserve 1cup of cooking liquid (stock) for making peanut sauce. Cut the shrimps lengthwise in half, devein and set aside.
Slice the pork thinly, set aside
MAKING THE ROLLS:
Fill a shallow 9 or 10-inch cake or pie pan with water. Use your judgment after dipping the first rice paper to see the rice paper is chewy or not. To enhance this texture you can use very hot or hot water instead of room temperature water. Working with 2 sheets of rice paper at a time, immerse the sheets and quickly remove (I do 4 at a time when I throw a big crowd parties). Spread out flat on a cutting board (everyone in my family is an expert, they never need to use a cutting board, they roll straight from his (her) palm). The rice paper will become pliable within seconds. Do not leave the rice papers too long in the water as they become soggy.
Lay one piece of lettuce over the bottom of the rice paper. Add 1 tablespoon of noodles, some mint leaves, Thai basil leaves, cucumbers and radishes. Roll the paper over from the bottom. Tuck both sides of the paper over the filling. Lay 2 shrimp halves, cut side down, across the top of rice paper. Lay 2 pork pieces before shrimps. Keep rolling the paper into a cylinder. When you reach near the end, place 1-2 piece of chives or cilantro and roll to seal. Place the rolls, seam side down, on a plate and cover with a damp towel so they will stay moist. They are best eaten right away or you can keep them under a damp towel for few hours. I make these rolls in advance sometimes and they go to the fridge for my husband take to his niece’s house the next day. However, they were not as good as freshly made rolls because the rice papers became gummy and tough.
Serve rolls with the dipping sauces, preferably in individual dipping bowls. The rolls are dipped into the sauce and eaten out of hand.
MAKING THE PEANUT SAUCE:
Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic, green onion and fry about 30 seconds until the garlic and green onion are fragrant. Add onion and cook for 5’. Add the stock, water, sugar, peanut butter, hoisin sauce and soy sauce and whisk to dissolve. Bring to a boil, then redce heat and simmer 3 minutes to not too thick and not too thin consistency. Remove from heat and serve at room temperature.
Look for picture presentations. I sometimes post them up in my blog on later days.