summer rolls

I am not a collector of cookbooks. I do have one full shelf of about twenty or so, but I’m not one to idly buy any book I get excited about. Unless I’m interested in a very good proportion of the recipes in the book, I won’t buy it.

Unless it’s only three dollars, and every recipe has several pictures, and a surprising number of those recipes look good. I recently found a Thai Cooking Step-by-Step book in the bargain aisle and couldn’t pass it up.

The first recipe, and probably the one I was the most excited about, is for summer rolls, rice paper wrappers rolled around vegetables, rice vermicelli, and shrimp. I checked out a few recipes before making them, but most were similar, so I only slightly adapted the one in the book.

Every recipe included shrimp, rice vermicelli, cilantro and carrots. A few also included cucumber and Boston lettuce, both of which I wanted to include. One added mint, one Thai basil, and one preferred Thai basil but offered mint as an alternative. I haven’t been able to find Thai basil (although I haven’t looked very hard), so I used mint the first time I made these. Dave and I both hated the mint. I skipped the extra herbs entirely the second time, just using cilantro, and we much preferred it that way.

I struggled with what to do with the lettuce. I really wanted it inside the roll, similar to spider rolls. I tried it, but it was so bulky that I couldn’t get the summer rolls to make a tight wrap. Leaving the lettuce on the outside was preferable.

I thought the dipping sauce made from the recipe included in the step-by-step book was too pungent. The second time I made these, I used a recipe from another recently-acquired Asian cookbook (but I thought I didn’t buy many cookbooks?), and it was very good.

Admittedly, this isn’t the quickest recipe to put together. I kept thinking it would be pretty fast, since there’s very little cooking. Of course whenever you have to individually prepare fillings and wrappers, there will be a significant time investment. But for such a healthy and delicious meal, it’s worth it to me.

As per Joelen’s suggestion, I am submitting this entry to her Asian Appetizers event.

Update 9.21.08: I made this again and decided the recipe I originally had here needed a few tweaks.  I reduced the vermicelli from 2 ounces to 1.5 ounces and cut all of the dip ingredients in half.  Also, it only took me 45 minutes to make these, so it’s not quite the “significant time investment” that I originally thought.

Summer Rolls (adapted from Fresh Spring Rolls in Thai Cooking Step-by-Step, from the Confident Cooking Series)

Makes 8 rolls

16 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1.5 ounces rice vermicelli
8 rice paper wrappers
½ medium cucumber, cut into matchsticks
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
16 Thai basil leaves (optional)
½ cup (0.5 ounces) loosely packed cilantro leaves
8 small leaves Boston lettuce (or 4 large leaves, torn in half)

1. Fill a medium skillet with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the shrimp and cook just until the shrimp are opaque, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and remove the shrimp from the pan using a slotted spoon. Cut the shrimp in half lengthwise. Add the vermicelli to the hot liquid and let set until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the vermicelli from the pan.

2. Place a rice paper wrapper in the hot liquid and leave until softened, about one minute. Remove it from the water and place it on a work surface. Place 4 shrimp halves side-by-side in center of wrapper and top with 2 basil leaves, 1 tablespoon cilantro, a few carrot and cucumber strips, and a small amount of rice noodles.

3. Fold up bottom 2-inch border of wrapper over filling. Fold left, then right edge of wrapper over filling. Roll filling to top edge of wrapper to form tight cylinder.  Lay each roll in a leaf of lettuce and place on a serving platter.  Serve with dipping sauce.

Summer Roll Dipping Sauce (adapted from Nouc Cham in Corinne Trang’s Essentials of Asian Cuisine)

1 tablespoons granulated sugar
1.5 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients. Let stand for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.


  1. I love the OCD way you grouped the veggies together– not touching each other! Hee hee. Those look totally delicious and I would never have guessed the recipe came from a bargain cookbook!

  2. I love spring/summer rolls so much! I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately, I think I’ll have to make some for my lunch next week!

  3. Absolutely gorgeous. I made some too and tried varied dipping sauces. It tastes great with a peanut-soy combination too.

  4. These look great! Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Looks great!! I’m so going to have to try these. They look much easier than my veggie spring rolls and tastier too!

  6. Oh, great job! For a dipping sauce, I use a sweet hoisin and add with chopped peanuts… otherwise its very similar. In fact, I’m teaching an eggroll class next month and I have Vietnamese springs rolls on my menu. You could even submit this to the blogging event I’m hosting. Details here:

  7. Those look great! They are such a healthy alternative to deep friend spring rolls. I actually prefer these because they are so fresh tasting!

  8. Those look fabulous! Yum!

  9. This looks great- the perfect lighter recipe for summer!

  10. Coilleen says:

    These look yummy and healthful too!

    I found your site this week looking for pulled pork recipes. I made your crockpot pulled pork yesterday and it is fantastic! I saved some of the cooking liquid and added a little vinegar, brown mustard, and a tablespoon of sugar to make a thin sauce. Everyone preferred it to the regular barbecue sauce! Thanks! This is a recipe I will definetly use again!

  11. Beautiful! Summer rolls are one of my favorite appetizers! I love the recipe for the dipping sauce. I usually just chop up some peanuts and mix them with hoisin sauce, but this looks much more interesting.

  12. How fun! I love eating spring rolls, but haven’t tried to make them. Your pics look great!


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