Vietnamese Summer Rolls

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is make Vietnamese Summer Rolls. They’re refreshing, healthy, and have lots of flavor. And best of all – it requires very little cooking! The last thing I want to do on a hot day is turn on the stove. And if you don’t like shrimp, try sliced steak or shredded chicken. I warn you though, these do need to be made fresh. The rice paper becomes hard after a few hours, and the vegetables lose their crunch. If you’re making this for a party, I suggest preparing the vegetables and sauce beforehand, and assembling them right before serving. See all photos >

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Summer rolls: 2 ounces Vietnamese or Thai rice noodles 12-14 rice paper rounds 18 medium shrimp, pan fried or grilled w/skewers 1/4 cup, or 12 fresh Thai basil leaves (or regular basil leaves), rinsed and dried 1/2 cup, or 12 whole large fresh mint leaves, rinsed and dried 1/2 cup, or 12 whole large fresh cilantro leaves, rinsed and dried 1/2 cup shredded carrot 3 lettuce leaves, leaves, spines removed, leaving 6 halves

Dipping sauce: 1/4 cup water 1/4 cup Asian fish sauce (nuoc mam or nam pla) 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 2 tablespoons cup lime juice 1 tablespoons sugar 1 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Asian red chili paste, such as sriracha sauce pinch of shredded carrot for granish

Directions: 1. Bring water to a boil and cook rice noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse and cool. 2. Line up ingredients in small bowls before beginning to make rolls. Fill a large bowl or saucepan with very warm water. Place two rice paper round in the hot water. Soak for between 30 seconds and 1 minute, or until rice round is pliable and pattern on the round is barely visible. Remove and place on a clean surface. 3. Place 2 basil leaves on the inner edge of the rice round, about 1-inch from the edge and leaving about 1-inch on each side. Top with a little bit of the cooked rice noodles. Place 3 pieces of shrimp on top. Top with about 2 tablespoons carrots, then 2 leaves of mint and

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a few sprigs of cilantro. Fold 1 piece of lettuce leaf and place on top of pile. 4. Bring the edge over filling and tuck

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underneath. As you continue to roll, fold in the sides. Finish rolling, repeat with the other rolls, and reserve under a damp cloth or paper towel. 5. Make the dipping sauce by mixing together all the ingredients. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. 6. When ready to serve, slice in half and serve, cut ends up, with dipping sauce.

The fun (and annoying) part of this is having the chance to use ingredients you normally wouldn’t use. You can find some of these ingredients at the local store, but there are a few that you probably need to venture out to the Asian grocery store for. But no fear! I will explain what these ingredients are, and where you can get them.

First one up: Rice paper. It’s made by pounding rice into powder, adding water, and then pressed in flat sheets. This comes in a few different sizes. The smaller ones make great bite-sized rolls, but I like making the larger ones and cutting them in half. If this is your first time, get the larger ones to start out with. The one I use is about 10 inches across (I’m guessing). I was able to find this at an Asian grocery that carried Southeastern ingredients, but wasn’t able to find it at a Chinese grocery. This is one of the harder ingredients to find on the list.

Rice paper feels more like plastic, and is dry and brittle to the touch. It can easily crack if you’re not careful. The pattern you see here is actually functional – once the pattern disappears in water, the paper is ready for use.

When soaked in water, it quickly turns into a gel-like state. It feels elastic, and is pliable and strong. I use two of the rice papers, since they are so thin. When they both dissolve, they turn into just one sheet.

Here are the noodles you’ll need. Again, you’ll have to venture out to an Asian grocery store for this one as well. The noodle section of an Asian grocery store can be overwhelming. There is usually a smaller section within it for rice noodles, and the packaging usually has Thai or Vietnamese characters on it. It comes in wide, medium, and thin – get the thin kind. It’s only 69 cents! You don’t need much for the recipe – just pick up the smallest package.


noodles are very thin. Probably the thinnest noodles you can find in the aisle, other than bean thread noodles. These cook longer than you think. Even when they look like they’re done, it may still be crunchy in the middle.

I buy raw shrimp that is already de-veined and de-shelled. I pan fry them quickly and take the tails off…I would grill them if I had a grill.

Prepping all the ingredients in a line for summer roll assembly!
Assembling the summer rolls

To make things easier, line up all your raw ingredients so that the rolls are easy to assemble. Don’t go overboard – it can get big very quickly! I made a mistake here – I would put the basil/mint/cilantro first, so the green shows through the rice paper.

Bring the bottom edge of the rice paper until it wraps around the filling. Bring in both sides, and roll to the top. The rice paper should stick to itself. Cut the roll in half on a bias, and serve the halves open side up.

Don’t eat it yet! We’re not done! Time to make the sauce.
Make the dipping sauce (Nuoc Cham)

Rice vinegar has a different taste than regular vinegar.
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It’s milder, and sweeter. It’s used frequently in many different kinds of Asian dishes, and is the key ingredient in sushi rice. I was able to find this at the ethnic foods aisle at Safeway.

Fish sauce is a common ingredient used in Southeast Asian cooking. It has a unique flavor, and is used in most
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southeast dishes – from soup to Pad Thai.

My favorite hot sauce! This is called sriracha sauce and is mostly used in southeast dishes, though I put this stuff on everything. It’s nicknamed the “rooster sauce”, since the most common brand is the one with the funny looking rooster on it. I bought the kind that has garlic flavor, so I didn’t add any minced garlic to my sauce. I was able to find this at the ethnic aisle at Safeway. To read an interesting story about this sauce, go here.

The finished dipping sauce. It has a very interesting taste – sour, sweet, spicy, and very tangy.

See all photos >


Got something to say? Feel free, I want to hear from you! Leave a Comment

  1. HKT says:

    Rice paper is actually made with rice that’s ground to a powder, not by pounding. Rice noodles are made the same way, except they used a different forming technique (ID nerd….) You can (usually) substitute rice noodles for wheat noodles for people that has wheat allergies…

  2. Brittany says:

    Mmmm, I’ve never been a huge fan of those but your pictures make them look amazing and I might actually be craving one now :)

  3. Kent says:

    Very nice Paula, Your headed toward your own cooking show with posts like that!

    When I make these (or something almost the same) I like to serve them with peanut dipping sauce like I get at the Thai restaurants sometimes. Blasphemy? I don’t know. Good. Yes!

  4. Paula says: (Author)


    You’re right, peanut sauce! I forgot to mention that in my post. That’s really yummy too.

  5. AJ says:

    I should borrow you camera one day to see if it’s doing that magic! or it is something else! :o)

  6. Katie says:

    mmmm… i love summer rolls. they really are such a tasty way to get out of cranking the oven on for extended periods of time. i love the pictorial rolling demonstration! good info and a really nice blog. =)

  7. droobiedoobie says:

    Me and Arthur use to have dinner parties where we would just make all the the stuff and have the rice papers out for people to make. We’d usually get extra “toppings” from the vegetarian Chinese place that was down the street from us, like eggplant, tofu and other veggies. Arthur was a mad scientist when it came to this stuff.

  8. Gigi Tsern says:

    You need to start a recipe book! Your pictures and layout of the recipe is perfect…..really.

  9. palmsugar says:

    That is not Sriracha, but chili garlic sauce (as the bottle itself says). Sriracha comes in a tall squeeze bottle, and is a different product made by the same rooster company (Huy Fong).

  10. Paula says: (Author)


    That’s true! I have both at home, but I usually use the chili garlic sauce for the dipping sauce…I love the flavor.

  11. monina says:

    I find that it is easier to soften the rice paper if you use a very damp clean kitchen towel laid on a chopping board. Put the dry wrapper on the towel then start running your hands (like massaging) over it till you feel it begin to soften, look transparent and be more pliable. I actually wrap the spring rolls on top of the damp kitchen towel (easier that way). If you are going to do a large number, then you will have to re-wet the towel every now and then till you get all the spring rolls done! :)

    Alternative dip: maybe you can try some lemon juice, fish sauce, freshly chopped chili, chopped onions and black pepper. I know black pepper will make the dip a little unsightly but it adds more oommmph. :)

  12. Paula is QuiteCurious says: (Author)

    That’s a great idea! I’ll have to try that out next time. The way I do it now makes such a big mess sometimes…

  13. monina says:

    :)i know! that what i used to do too!
    then i learnt that wet towel trick from a vietnamese chef in ha long.

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  15. monina says:

    congratulations on your engagement paula!!!

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