Monday, July 30, 2012

Spring Rolls are Just Like Tacos

Dear Lauren,

The first meal you, Dad, and I ever ate together was at Kim Son in Houston, Texas. You were 4. We were...older than that. You ate 4 of these. And you were tiny! You also called And Dad and I ended up with the same fortune in each of our cookies.

It was a moment.
That was 18 years ago.

We all still love spring rolls. And each other.

We used to think Kim Son was a magical place that produced these amazingly delicious treats. We still think Kim Son is a magical place, but we learned how to make them ourselves.

We had to.

We moved away from Houston.

And we were hungry!

The great thing about them is that once you do the prep you can just line up the ingredients and let everyone roll their own. It's like tacos, only Vietnamese.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls
inspired by Kim Son but made by Mom & Dad

1 package rice vermicelli (There are many brands but they look like this in the package.)
1/2 pound 31/35 shrimp (You can steam or boil it or buy it pre-cooked if you like, and you can use any size.)
1 package rice paper (Found in Asian markets, they look like this.)
Romaine lettuce, cut the centers from the leaves for easy rolling
bean sprouts (Here is a picture of them since they are not shown in my photo. Where the heck are they? It's a mystery!)
cilantro, trim stems, otherwise leave whole
basil leaves
mint leaves
2 carrots, shredded or julienne
1 English cucumber, shredded or julienne
peanut dipping sauce*

Boil water in a saucepan and cook rice vermicelli according to package instructions. Strain and set aside in a serving bowl.

Slice shrimp lengthwise in half Whatever works out for you, slice each cooked shrimp lengthwise in half so they will roll nicely. Place in a serving bowl.

At this point you can just start lining up all of your prepared ingredients in an assembly line, starting with a stack of plates, one per person. Next you will have a pie plate or other shallow pan of hot water and the rice paper stacked next to that. Then line up the rest of your ingredients in a row with enough room for each person's plate to slide along the assembly line in front.

Take a rice paper and put it in the hot water until it's just pliable. You don't want to leave it in there any longer than that or it will be overcooked and tear apart easily when you start to roll. By the time you fill the paper with the other ingredients and roll it, the almost cooked paper will have cooked a little more even out of the water. Some people double their rice paper so the rolls won't tear but we've found this to be unnecessary. Place the rice paper on your plate.

Add 3 slices of shrimp along the center of the round rice paper (think imaginary center diagonal line) with the pink and white striped side of the shrimp lying on the rice paper (it will look pretty once you roll them up as the rice paper is opaque.) Cover the shrimp with 2 small pieces of Romaine, about a tablespoon's worth of vermicelli, and all of the rest of the ingredients strewn along the center on top of each other. You are not trying to add as much as possible, just a little of each to get all the flavors and textures. Do not overfill!

Take the edge of the rice paper closest to you and fold it over your ingredients. Fold the sides of the rice paper inward. Before you start to roll, use your fingers to compress the ingredients and push them to the bottom as if the rice paper were a ziploc. Then make that first roll and roll the rest of it up! That's it! If your first one is not perfect, it's ok. You'll get better with time and they will taste just as delicious.

*The peanut dipping sauce. We still love the sauce at Kim Son the best and we don't have their recipe. Sometimes, often, we just skip making any altogether because these rolls taste so wonderful and fresh on their own. Also, we haven't found a recipe that we completely adore but we do like this one.


P.S. You know what also tastes great in a spring roll? Avocado. Pineapple. Pork. There are a lot of things you can add in there. Just keep the basic combination of the ingredients I listed in the recipe and add whatever else you like.

P.P.S. If you ever stumble upon an amazing peanut dipping sauce, please tell me immediately!!!


  1. Love this. Your stories are awesome. As always. :)

  2. Beautiful story, beautiful food, beautiful picture!

    I would love to suggest another dipping sauce, Nước mắm (chấm). it's our favourite dipping sauce for Vietnamese spring rolls (I swear, sometimes I make them just so that I'd have an excuse to make the sauce), and it so easy to make! just mix together

    3 tablespoons rice vinegar
    3 tablespoons fish sauce
    2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
    2 tablespoons sugar
    minced garlic (1 -- 1 1/2 tsp)
    chili flakes (a few shakes)

    and you're done! (this just might be the shortest recipe I've ever written :-)) Hope you enjoy it!

    1. Brooke, your comment means the world to me! And I can't wait to try your dipping sauce!

  3. so, so sweet. and now i want these rolls

    1. I wish you would try to make them and let me know what you think! We love them!

  4. I'm making these tonight. Can't wait.

    1. Great! Report back and let me know what you think!