How To: Inauthentic Summer Rolls

Hey, kids! Want to learn how to make spring rolls? (Well, spring rolls-ish?) Of course you do! C’mon, let’s boogie.

The nice thing about spring rolls is that there are a billion different varieties of them. Fried? Sure! Fresh? Also sure! Pork, beef, shrimp, herbs, peanut powder? Yes, yes, and more yes! So technically, this how-to is more of a general guide than an exact recipe, with some tips thrown in for the inexperienced roll-maker; this was my first time making them and I noticed a few things along the way.

We’ll be talking about fresh spring rolls, also sometimes called summer rolls, because the rice-paper skin and the lighter filling is super refreshing when the weather starts to heat up. Basically, if you have the patience to chop things up for a salad, you have the patience to make a bunch of summer rolls and then chow them all down while sitting on the porch getting bug-bit.

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So first off, you’re gonna prep your fillings. I chose shrimp (cooked in boiling water that was seasoned with some soy sauce and lime juice), cilantro, mango, avocado, and cucumber. TIP #1: prep a lot of filling! No, a lot! More than that! It’s especially good if you can include something relatively cheap and voluminous, like rice stick noodles or cabbage, to balance out the other stuff.

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Next, pull out your spring roll wrappers. They come in containers like this–you can find them at well-stocked grocery stores or Asian markets, and they come stiff and dried. Fill a large dish/pot/pan/what have you with hot water–make sure it’s large enough that you can submerge an entire wrapper. Soak the wrapper for 20-30 seconds until it’s pliable. TIP #2: it’s okay to pull it out if it still feels a little stiff; it’ll continue to soften, and if you leave it in the water too long it’ll start to weaken and shred.

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Then you’re gonna lay out the softened wrapper and fill it! TIP #3: add more filling than you think you need. This is where noodles or cabbage come in handy–the wrapper will be good and stretchy now that it’s been rehydrated, and if you don’t add enough filling to the roll, it’ll be kind of flaccid and the filling will fall out. As you can see here, I laid the filling out sort of burrito-style, almost all the way to the ends of the wrapper, and I rolled them and then cut them in half. Next time, I’m going to make a more concentrated bolus (isn’t that a delicious word, bolus?) in the center of the wrapper and pull the top and bottom down further so that the whole thing is more snugly wrapped for structural integrity. Also, it’s a good idea to put down a paper towel or something to absorb the excess moisture so that things don’t get all soggy.

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And you just continue rolling and wrapping until you’ve run out of filling! They’re good appetizer fare, but if you make enough you can also just horf them down in place of lunch or dinner. No regrets. They’re best eaten right after they’re made–I ate some of mine and saved the rest for lunch the next day, and the wrappers had weakened and torn in spots, which made them messier and harder to eat. Still mega-delicious, though.

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I can’t see myself getting tired of them anytime soon. It’s super easy to mix up the filling: I found recipes with enoki, broccoli, and kimchi, sesame-crusted avocado and cabbage, jicama, smoked salmon, quinoa, and even fresh edible flowers. My mix was pretty dang good; the creaminess of the avocado and the mango was balanced by the crunchy cucumber, the firm shrimp, and the slightly chewy wrapper, and I like cilantro in everything so it was a nice herbal bonus. You can sub in pretty much whatever you like, though, which is good because many spring roll recipes call for mint and I hate fresh mint. With a fiery passion. So, you know, you do you! There are probably some limits to appropriate fillings–breakfast cereal and ice cream come to mind–but other than that, the sky’s the limit. Shoot for the stars with your little spring rolls, friends, and you’ll go far.

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7 thoughts on “How To: Inauthentic Summer Rolls

  1. I’ll say this – I’d have to sub all of the ingredients here, but this looks so damn good. I’d probably do some ground pork with chives, cabbage and carrots – or even just an all veg one.. We don’t have ANY Asian markets around (old one has turned into a Mexican market) so I’m wondering if I can find those wrappers at Publix.

    I’ve practiced a lot of Asian style foods at home to cut down on salt/MSG, and this looks like a great addition to my repertoire.

    Fresh mint is great if it’s in a mojito, but in food? No thank you.

    • Mia says:

      You can also order them on the internet, like everything else these days! If you get the bigger packs they can last you quite a while.

    • Mia says:

      After they’re assembled, they’re done! No cooking necessary. You just precook whatever fillings need cooking (like shrimp) and enjoy the crunchiness of the raw vegetables. I think you -can- deep-fry them, but I’ve never tried that.

  2. rubybastille says:

    Heh. Flaccid.

    We tried a new Thai place the other day and I did a little dance because their spring rolls didn’t have cilantro in them! Admittedly they didn’t have much flavor at all, but that’s okay, because I mainly use spring rolls as a means of conveying peanut sauce to my mouth.

    Our Fred Meyer actually has a decent Asian section, so I’ll have to try these sometime. The wrappers intimidated me, but they sound fairly easy to deal with!

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