This is the #1 dish I make most often throughout the warm months of the year. I keep waiting to get sick of them, but I never do. They’re great as an appetizer, a light lunch, a way to impress guests or as an addition to a summer picnic or potluck. Essentially you’re eating a salad- you’re getting all the beautiful colors and nutrients and all the crunch of those fresh veggies- but they are about a thousand times more satisfying and fun.
Called gỏi cuốn and originally hailing from Vietnam, this dish is a classic. This version of the sauce deviates a bit from the traditional version in order to better balance the lack of animals in the rolls, but it’s quick and easy to throw together.
Above all, these rolls are very flexible. The mint and basil are pretty key, but if you don’t have one or a few of the other veggies on hand, it’s no problem. You ideally want all of those different colors and textures and nutrients, but even in the picture above you can see that I made the rolls without lettuce, bean sprouts or carrots, and it was fine. Even if you don’t have the rice noodles on hand, you can do an all-veggie version that’s still good. Likewise, if you want to throw in other veggies, strips of grilled tofu, sautéed oyster mushrooms, or even kimchi or green papaya salad for some cross-cultural fusion, the world is your proverbial oyster.
Yield: 6 large summer rolls
- 6 circular rice paper wrappers*
- Rice vermicelli or bean thread noodles*
- 2 carrots, julienned or peeled into ribbons
- 1/3 red cabbage, sliced into thin strips
- 3 large romaine lettuce leaves, cut down the middle lengthwise and then in half
- ½ cucumber, sliced lengthwise into thin strips
- 1 handful cilantro
- 1 handful Thai basil (regular basil will work ok if you can’t get Thai basil)
- 1 handful fresh mint
- 2 handfuls rinsed bean sprouts, optional
- large, shallow bowl of warm water
- ½ cup + 2 Tbsp crunchy or creamy peanut butter**
- 2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- juice and pulp of one lime
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp ginger
- 1-3 Tbsp sambal oelek or Sriracha, depending on how much you like spice
- 1.5 Tbsp agave, maple syrup or date paste
- 1.5 Tbsp hoisin sauce (make sure it’s vegan and/or gluten-free if that’s important to you)
- 2 Tbsp water
- 1 tsp sesame oil
*These can be found at International and Asian grocery stores, most Whole Foods stores (albeit for five times the price), or can be bought online
** Most standard peanut butter has added sugar/sweetener in it, and most “natural” peanut butter does not (check your labels to make sure.) No judgment if you’re not using the natural stuff, but in that case you may not need to add as much agave/maple syrup/date paste to your sauce. Hold off on adding them at first and then taste your sauce and add them in only if you want additional sweetness.
- In a blender or with a handheld immersion blender, blend the garlic and ginger together with the lime juice and tamari. Add in the sambal/Sriracha, sweetener, hoisin sauce and sesame oil and blend until smooth. Then add the peanut butter and blend or whisk until fully incorporated
- Make sure to have all of your prepped ingredients ready and in reach. Soak a rice paper wrapper in warm water for about five seconds. Lay it flat on a large cutting board
- Carefully layer your ingredients on the lower third of the wrapper, leaving about an inch of empty wrapper on both sides and below
- Roll as shown here. It takes a little bit of practice, but even if at first they come out looking a little wackadoo at first, they’ll still taste great.
NOTE- different brands of rice paper wrappers will need a little more or less time to soak in the water before they’re pliable, so if you try one and it’s too stiff or too mushy, take note and adjust as you go
Serve them immediately, dunk them in sauce and enjoy!