An expertly made summer roll is a work of art—a perfect balance of herbs, vegetables, cellophane noodles, and often shrimp or pork, rolled tightly in a translucent rice wrapper. Believe me, making them takes practice and patience. I wanted to create a simpler version so I took what I like best about them—the fragrant herbs—and tossed them with shredded iceberg, which has just the right crunch and weight to upholster them. They’re rolled up with peanuts as if they were crepes with open ends and served with nuoc cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce.
Simple Summer Rolls Recipe
For Dipping Sauce
• 1⁄4 cup Thai fish sauce
• 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons water
• 2 tablespoons sugar or mild-flavored honey
• 2 fresh Thai bird chilies, thinly sliced, or other small hot chili
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
• 1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped spearmint or small mint leaves
• 1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
• 1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped sweet or Thai basil, or small whole leaves
• 1-1⁄2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
• Twelve 6-inch rice paper rounds
• 1⁄2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1. Stir dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
2. Toss herbs and lettuce in a bowl until evenly combined.
3. Fill a shallow bowl with warm tap water and drop in 4 of the rice papers, one at a time. In about 3 minutes they should be very soft and pliable. Lift them from the water and lay them out on a clean kitchen towel.
4. Divide one-third of the herb mixture among the 4 papers, arranging each portion in a strip lengthwise across the center. Sprinkle with peanuts. Roll each one up into a snug cylinder and place it on a platter. Repeat the soaking, filling and rolling in two more batches.
5. Serve rolls right away with dipping sauce or cover them with a damp paper towel and then plastic wrap; they’ll hold for about 2 hours in a cool spot (not the refrigerator). Makes 12 rolls.
Learn more about cooking with culinary herbs in Traditional Herbal Recipes from Around the World.
Excerpted with permission from The Herbal Kitchen.