How To Make Spring Rolls
I don't normally write articles on cooking. That's probably because, being single, I rarely cook. I do tend to throw a little sum-sum together to stave off starving, and this is one of the EASIEST, tastiest things a person can make.
You'll notice there is no frying involved. That's because I'm not big on fried spring rolls. That's not to say I hate fried Asian food; I happen to love fried eggrolls. But my preference is for Vietnamese spring rolls, served cool to the touch and delightfully tasty. They're also pretty healthy, come to think of it.
The ingredients are totally up to you, but what you see listed here is something I developed a taste for at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant back home. I am HUGE fan of Vietnamese food, and I could easily eat it every day. Which is why I was so thrilled to learn how to make these -- cos now I do eat it nearly every day.
So let's start with what you need. I've listed the items and also shown pics to some of them, cos Americans sometimes have difficulty locating these things in the regular grocery store. If you have an Asian specialty store, try them first. If you don't, you may want to shop online.
What You'll Need:
There aren't many Asian specialty shops where I live, so I have to get my rice paper from the local Tesco. Grocery shops may have it in the foreign foods section, which is where I get mine, or they may have it elsewhere. I am including a photo of what it looks like, cos it was a real PITA the first time I went looking for mine. They blended right in with the tortillas (so bizarre to see that in a foreign foods section!) so hopefully this will help newbies track them down.
Check the package to make sure the paper isn't broken. It's not really paper-thin, it's kind of waferish in texture. And broken rice paper is pretty useless. Chipped is ok... but try to find a pack that isn't.
Bun Rice Noodles
In my opinion, this is the most important ingredient. There are loads of rice noddles out there, and some of them really suck. Especially those wide-ish flat noodles. Err, no offense to whoever made them. Obviously, some people love them, or they wouldn't be so proliferate. But I feel like I'm eating giant worms when I use them, so I go for the thin vermicelli you see in this photo.
There are others which come out really chewy when cooked. Like gummi-worms. It's not as much fun as it sounds. Not when you spend 30 minutes just trying to chew one mouthful. Of course, you can use any type you want. My advice would be to remember the brand so you don't have to play noodle roulette each time you go shopping.
A Wide Bowl
You'll need a wide bowl to soak the rice paper in. It needs to be as wide as the paper itself, or you risk breaking the paper and having to start all over again. It doesn't need to be anything special, just a regular bowl. If you have the patience, you can also use a regular bowl, dipping a section at a time -- but this can be tricky, cos the paper will start sticking to itself as it folds over and it can break.
You don't *need* tofu, but it's something I always use. I have included the photo for people who don't know how it's packaged in the grocery shop. You'll want to get firm tofu, not silken -- that stuff falls apart too quickly to really get much use out of it. Tofu is cheap and you can buy it all over the place. Or, if you're really clever (and really bored) you can make your own.
You can put anything you want in your spring rolls. I like to use avodcado, peanuts, tofu, and lettuce. You can also use shrimp, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, and whatever else you can think of.
This is, without a doubt, the best condiment on earth. I can eat this stuff straight out of the bottle. Ohmigod, I'm getting excited just reading this. And hungry. You can find the au naturel kind at places like Amazon, or you can get the regular stuff at the local shop. It's all of it good stuff. If you live in Europe you may not find it in jars -- the kind I get is sold in a re-seal-able plastic bag type thing.
Putting It All Together (Approx. 20 Minutes)
Step 1: Fill the kettle up and put the water on.
Step 2. Put your vermicelli in a bowl. When the water's ready, you're going to soak the noodles. It should take less than 5 minutes for the noodles to become soft and noodle-like. When that happens, drain the water and let the noodles sit for a bit.
Step 3. Fill your wide bowl with hot water. I use hot tap water -- it doesn't need to have been boiled. Float a piece of rice paper on top of the water and hold it there until it starts to get soft. Once it's as limp as a washrag (only takes a few minutes), lay it down on a flat surface. The counter will do, if need be.
Step 4. With your rice paper spread out in a big circle, place your ingredients 1/2 way between the center and the edge. (This makes it easier to roll up later.) Place a handful of noodles first and then top it with your lettuce, tofu, avocado and peanuts. Don't make it too bulky or it will be difficult to wrap.
Step 5. Rolling it up: If you've ever worked in a deli, you'll be wrapping this the same as you'd wrap a hero or hoagie. Take the edge closest to the ingredients and cover them with the paper. Roll it once more and then fold the left and right side inward, making an envelope of sorts. Then continue wrapping until finished. Set the spring roll down and let it dry a bit.
Step 6. Eat! Dip your spring rolls in your hoisin sauce and enjoy!