Monday, June 18, 2007

Going Lite with Summer Rolls

Every month, Coffee from The Spice Cafe sends us off on a mission called the Monthly Blog Patrol: the idea is to browse our favorite blogs and choose some recipes that make us want to run to the kitchen and try them, and, well, run to the kitchen and *actually* try them, instead of just drooling all over the keyboard. The theme for this month is Going Lite.

I have to say that Coffee has chosen a very apt theme for this month! St. Louis is blazing hot, and the water vapor hangs heavy in the air, making it exhausting to step out during the day. It is the kind of weather where the thought of eating rich foods is oppressive and I'm seeking sweet relief in lighter fare. When I read the theme, I thought of all kinds of things to make- maybe a fruity drink, a cold soup, or a chilled sorbet or a salad. In the end, I turned to my bulging list of recipes bookmarked on my laptop and came upon a post that had inspired me a year and a half ago!

This wrapped salad goes by many names: summer rolls or Vietnamese rolls or soft rolls or salad rolls. We all love spring rolls with their tasty vegetable filling and crisp golden wrapper, and these rolls are their more summer-friendly no-cook cousins. When I had read this post from the blog Blog Appetit, I was impressed by the numerous ideas, and the detailed instructions, and useful links for making summer rolls. Truly inspiring!

Ready to wrap and roll?

The only ingredient that is absolutely necessary for making summer rolls are these spring roll wrappers:
They are large rice flour discs, dried thoroughly until they resemble plastic. I bought the ones with little squares marked on them. I was able to find these in Whole Foods, and I am sure they are available in all Asian and international grocery stores.

Next comes the dipping sauce that is going to make these rolls tasty and irresistible.
Here is how I made it: In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce + 1 T sambal oelek + 1 t honey + 1 t chunky peanut butter + 1 t fresh lemon juice. Taste and keep adding more of any ingredient until you like the balance of flavors.
Tip: Substitute ground chilies for the sambal oelek if you are unable to procure it. Or just use any chili sauce of your choice. Use smooth peanut butter if you prefer it, or leave it out altogether.

Now for the goodies that will be used as stuffing:
1. Tofu: I used some extra-firm tofu, drained out the water, then cut 1/2 inch slices and patted them dry on a kitchen towel. I made a little batter with 1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch), 1 tbsp soy sauce, pinch of red chili flakes and a little water. I dipped the tofu in this batter, then pan-fried it in 1 tsp oil until golden-brown on both sides. After frying, I cut the tofu into small sticks.
2. Crushed peanuts: I roasted 1/4 cup raw peanuts until light brown, then cooled them and pulsed briefly in the food processor to chunky pieces.
3. Carrots, shredded.
4. Cucumbers, peeled and de-seeded, then cut into thin slices with a mandoline.

And finally, some bright green goodies:
I used
1. Red lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
2. Mint, shredded thinly
3. Cilantro, minced

Set all the stuffing ingredients out nicely. Place the bowl of dipping sauce nearby. Set a clean lint-free kitchen towel out, this will be the rolling surface. You need hot water to soak the wrapper and soften it. I used a thali (plate with an edge) so that it was wide enough to contain the whole wrapper. The wrapper needs to be soaked for a minute or so. You can soak 2-3 wrappers at a time. For something so thin, the wrapper is surprisingly sturdy and I was able to wrap them very easily.

Placing the filling:

Layer small amounts of all the filling ingredients in a small strip in the lower half of the wrapper. Sprinkle on a tsp of dipping sauce. You want a little bit of the dipping sauce in the roll, and most of it to be served on the side.

Folding the sides:
Fold in the bottom, then the sides, like an envelope. Then roll from the bottom to the top tightly to make a cigar shaped roll.

The rolls are ready! They have been packed into a container ready to be taken on a picnic, to see Shakespeare in the Park.

Take a bite!

Verdict: I will be making these rolls a dozen times this summer! They are so delicious! Once you get the prep done, the rolling takes no time. The first time I made them, my mother was very skeptical when I told her that the rolls would be uncooked. "Agaa, kacche nahi ka lagnar?" she asked me...meaning, are they not going to taste raw? She helped me to roll a few, and my dad rolled most of them, to perfection, I might add. At the picnic, everyone enjoyed the rolls enormously, and my mother was convinced that the method works. She said that it tastes like Neer Dosa, a soft dosa. Now she has bought a packet of wrappers to take home with her :)
I made the rolls for my parents again yesterday, to take on their flight en-route to an Alaska cruise. This time, I used thinly sliced red bell peppers, and they looked so pretty inside the translucent wrapper! This is a great picnic food, because it tastes good cold, and is very summery.

I bought sturdy colorful plastic picnic plates this year, and will never be using disposable plates for a picnic ever again. Our picnic at the park was virtually trash-free (except for one paper napkin each)...we took our colorful plates and spoons, and packed all our food in food boxes, not in use-and-throw plastic bags. Even the beer that we bought there was sold in bright reusable cups (to my delight) by the ecologically sensible folks at Schlafly Brewery.

Hope you enjoyed this taste of something lite, and see you in a couple of days with something spicy. For a wonderful collection of inspired lighter fare, check out Coffee's round-up!


  1. I love making summer rolls, with all kinds of fillings. Usually I make a large batch of peanut dipping sauce and also nuoc cham, and I keep both in the fridge at all times. I also do prep on the ingredients -- shredded lettuce, carrots, and cooked rice vermicelli -- and keep those on hand, too. That way, it's easy to make a few summer rolls at a time.

  2. rolls look so pretty & must taste so good with all that stuffing :) while coffee makes us run to the kitchen, u r making me run to the store to get those wrappers :)

  3. Thats my bestest and most favourite south asian meal!!! :) In singapore they are known as popiah. :) Your description is very suthentic and just as it should be :) Thanks for such a lovely entry Nupr. :)

  4. I have these spring rolls skin lying in the freezer from the last 6 months, will give it a try.

  5. So delicious looking! I love this type of dish, but I have to confess that I'm very lazy about making something like this at home. Your rolls look just perfect.

  6. These look so deliciously beautiful! I think I am going to have to ask someone to bring a packet for me too!!!

  7. Hi Nupur,
    Those rolls look great.They are so healthy and picnic and travel friendly.Will try them for sure.Thank you for sharing.Durga

  8. I am glad to see summer rolls on your site. I love summer rolls too and make them often. I also use basil leaf, glass noodles and steamed shrimp as a variation. Btw, good to know you too are earth friendly :)


  9. What a great picnic food. So glad to hear about the trash free picnic. Alaskan cruise sounds fun for your parents. You are not going?

  10. Very tempting!! the wrappers u have used.. are these the same as spring roll sheets???

  11. wow
    that was one beautiful thing
    truly healthy n yummy
    cant imagine how they make those skins :)

  12. ...and I will be copying you Nupur. These look so incredible. Fantastic recipe. and great idea!

  13. Hi, small doubt for me....are they taste good as raw...I mean without baking or cooking? Because I brought some ready made veg spring rolls. For that before eating, I have to bake them for few minutes.

    Now-a-days really I am thinking to prepare these rolls at home. After preparation, I am thinking to bake them. But after seeing yours, I am in confusion. For this only I am asking. Will you clear my doubt please.

    Frankly speaking, yours rolls looks yummy and delicious too. Thanks for sharing.

  14. i've been looking for a good recipe for these. now i've found it. thank you. i esp. love what you did with the tofu. scrambled eggs might work as well.

  15. Lydia, that is a great idea: to stock the fridge with the sauce and the prepped veggies! 2-3 of these would make for a fantastic last-minute lunch.

    Richa, I think you will enjoy them very could do endless creative versions. Go get those wrappers :) !!

    Coffee, popiah?? cute :) Thanks for your theme...I finally finally got around to making these! I like them in restaurants too, but now I don't have to rely on that.

    Lata, these wrappers are like rice papads...and stored at room temp. If your spring roll skins are stored in the freezer, I am pretty sure they are the wheat ones that are used for normal fried/ baked spring rolls. They need cooking and cannot be used in this way. Do check...I would hate for your recipe to be ruined with the wrong kind of wrapper!

    Kalyn, I have enjoyed them in restaurants for years, but only made them at home this week! You will especially love these, Kalyn, they are full of fresh goodies and herbs :)

    Anita, please do ask someone for this! They are really cheap (by the way), and very light, and packed in a pretty sturdy "case" so they won't be in danger of breaking in transit.

    Durga, glad you like them!

    Namita, I thought of using basil leaf but my supply was over-harvested :) will try that next time. Also, I did intend to use glass noodles, but you know what, I bought the wrong kind! (mung bean threads, unusable in this recipe). oh well!

  16. Gini, no cruise for me :) They went with their friends :)

    Manasi, No manasi, they are confusingly called the same but they are different. These would be sold on shelves (at room temperature) and are made of rice. The other (normal spring roll wrappers) will be sold either refrigerated or frozen, and will be made of wheat. All these kind of wrappers come in packages that look very similar to the picture here...and a good store person might be able to help you choose the right one.

    Anusharaji, I imagine they make the wrappers the same way we make paper-thin rice papads! Spreading batter thinly in the sun. Although these might be factory-made and not sun dried.

    Meeta, let me know if you try it :) You will love these fresh flavors, I'm sure. Although you might have to hunt around for the wrappers in Germany.

    Jyothi, they are designed to be eaten raw and are different from regular spring rolls. These particular wrappers are pre-cooked before drying. So, if you get these particular skins, make these rolls. If you get the wheat skins, make baked/ fried rolls.

    Bee, I'm sure you will come up with some excellent new dipping sauces for these, and it could be filled with all kinds of fresh greens from your garden! One could also used baked tofu (pre-seasoned), but I usually don't like those for whatever reason. Scrambled eggs in a breakfast summer roll? I love the idea!

  17. hey nupur, have you ever been to cheesecake factory? they have this one dish called lettuce wraps,its the exact same ingredients you have here,but instead of rice sheets they use lettuce leaves.its yummy too!! and i love their 3 dipping sauces.

  18. I love these Vietnamese fresh rolls and order them whenever I see them on a menu. Great idea for summer, and will be definitely excellent to eat on (or before) a flight.

  19. Hi nupur.
    I loved todays recipe.. its just the right time... Vietnamese cuisine is my boy friends favorite! he just had wisdom tooth extractions and i want to make the rolls for him to make him feel good :)
    i was thinking of putting in just tofu and may be mushrooms in his roll as he has to keep a soft diet for some days.. can you suggest any other soft filling for a variation...

  20. Hi Nupur, the summer rolls look fantastic! I love how the colors come through the rice paper and your photos are really gorgeous. Thanks for the excellent step-by-step instructions too.
    Sounds like you're really making the most of your parents' visit -- and they're going to Alaska, how wonderful! Hope they have a grand time :)

  21. These are perfect... Not fried.. Cold bite on a hot day.

  22. Glad I could be an inspiration to you! My favorite combo right now is with fresh mango.

    Faith of Blog Appetit

  23. Hi Nupur! These look really good - a good way for me to get acquainted with tofu. I love getting an introduction like this (with so many possibilities) to a new ingredient (the wrappers) too - thanks!

  24. Supriya, lettuce wraps sound yummy!

    Evolvingtastes, glad you like them!

    Sharvari, how sweet of you to make this treat for him! Hope he feels better soon!
    Ideas for soft fillings...hmm...maybe fresh mango (as another comment says), or tomato (although that is not traditional)...this is a tough one since here the fillings are all intended to be crunchy.

    Linda, I love the way the rice wrapper is translucent too :)

    Faith, I loved your post the minute I saw it but it took me a couple of years to get to it :) Thanks for the inspiration!

    Cathy, true, the tofu goes well in this...even non-lovers of tofu will like it. I think you would love this roll!

  25. Suganya, yes, it is truly a relief to not have to fry this on a hot day!

  26. Beautiful Nupur. Nice presentation and it is very clear from your presentation. Tks for sharing it. Viji

  27. Hi Nupur, what an excellent way to eat all those healthy veggies :-)..though I dont think I ll be able to find the wrapper here in India !!!

  28. Nupur those square marks tell me they are dried on a chequered roller. I too had this question kharach kache nahi lagat! They look lovely though

  29. they look awesome....i wonder if i can get the rolls in india.........i've added you to my blogroll...i hope you dont mind


  30. oh they look had me drooling all over!!

  31. I've tasted a roll like this once in a Thai restaurant but wasn't too impressed but this recipe of yours makes me want to give it another shot!

  32. WOW...Roll looks yummy....My mouth is watering....Nice presentation ...Thanks for lovely comment...:)

  33. hmm..these rools look yummy, nupur. Wl try thm if i can find these wrappers sumwhr in Mumbai.

  34. Hi Nupur ! Was wondering if I cud fry the stuffed rolls to make it a Veg.Spring rolls ,what we get in chinese restaurants back in India ? or do we get different wrappers?

  35. Swati, no, you cannot use these rice flour wrappers to make fried spring rolls. You need different ones specifically called "spring roll" wrappers (made with wheat flour), sold in the refrigerated section.

  36. Hi Nupur, thanks to your post and the original post on Blog Apetit, I have made rolls like these a few times now and have enjoyed them immensely and so have my guests. I had already mentioned that they are a favorite, and I even knew how they are made, but somehow never got around to making them at home. Thanks again!

  37. Hi Nupur,
    My husband and I both wanted to eat a lighter meal yesterday after a bout of heavy indian dinners past couple of days. I chose these summer rolls to make and they turned out delicious. Thank you for the wonderful recipe. I am now an avid reader of your blog :)


  38. So happy to have these detailed instructions for making spring rolls!!!

  39. Nupur, I just made these and it was yummy - will post soon so you can see the pics I took. Thank you for yet another winning recipe... The sheets were so easy to handle and stuck well when rolled.

  40. This turned out amazing! The sauce is what makes the meal! Thanks!

  41. Hi Nupur

    Wanna try this one . Where can I buy the spring roll sheets and sambal oelek? Is it available in regular american grocery stores? Please let me know.Thanks!

  42. Thanks Nupur for yet another awesome intro to a product that I bravely tried.. our rice paper rolls were delicious. We made a salad of jicama, cucumber, carrots and raw mango, green chillies and coriander leaves dusted with chaat masala and roasted peanuts.

    Also later that day on a whim my dad had the brianwave to microwave the rice paper like papads and they are AMAZING that way! Tastewise, when microwaved they are a cross between "arisi" appalam (papad) and a particular tapioca appalam we have down south called marchini appalam. Now we plan to try deep frying it just like regular papads/Appalam. YUMM.. save some excess baggage space carring papads from india:)

    1. Hi Janani- your version of the rolls sound so good! Chaat masala would be a great addition. And very clever to use them as papad too, I never thought of that.

    2. Hello Nupur:

      Hope all is well in the post-Dale :( one hot stove world.

      Just thought I'd share yet another idea for a filling and a great example IMO of how the creativity of bloggers cross-pollinate in interesting ways.

      Another blog I love and follow is Sailu's food. A perennial favourite we've adapted is her thai style green papaya salad to which we also add raw mangoes We find this salad is AMAZING as a filling for the rice paper rolls.

      But a further (critical :)) addition we include to this salad is the Trader Joe's chilli lime mixed nuts

      You see, Toronto where I live, is perfect in so many ways yet has one fatal flaw..NO TRADER JOE's :) so whenever we go stateside we make it a point to score a bag of these. Crushed lightly and added to the salad its kicks it up to a whole new level.

    3. HI Janani- The post-Dale world is less fun and more lonely but what can you do. We do think of Dale a lot and talk about him all the time.

      I am definitely going to try papaya mango salad in these rolls- now that sounds simply amazing. I LOVE those TJ's peanuts you're talking about!! Thanks for the great tips.

  43. Loved this, Nupur.. made it a couple times.. thanks so much for this recipe.



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