This “fresh” spring roll is a classic in both Vietnamese and Thai cuisines. Unlike other spring rolls, this light & lively version is not fried, but is wrapped in a thin, translucent sheet of rice paper. The herbaceaous filling, too, is very refreshing, yet hearty & satisfying. Our version is made with leftover grilled chicken and poached shrimp, but you can use virtually anything you want, including tofu or grilled veggies.
Spring rolls are typically served with a sweet-savory-spicy dipping sauce called “nuoc cham” in Vietnamese. One of the key ingredients is the pungent condiment commonly called fish sauce.
Just in case you’re unfamiliar with fish sauce, here’s a little background on this powerful-smelling ingredient. Many Americans may have never heard of fish sauce, but it’s nothing new; in fact, fish sauce has an ancient and noble history.
While probably best known as a key ingredient in many Southeast Asian cuisines, fish sauce was also a prized & popular flavoring during Roman times. Known as as garum, fish sauce was the most important condiment of the ancient Mediterranean world. Vast fortunes were made by enterprising families who produced some of the world’s first “brands” of premium fish sauce.
Well, the world moves on, things come and go, and once again, the humble condiment known as fish sauce is moving back into the mainstream of Western cooking. Within the past few years, a variety of premium fish sauces have begun to be marketed specifically to American audiences. One of them, BLiS Barrel Aged Fish Sauce, is a superb example of this ancient delicacy.
BLiS Barrel Aged Fish Sauce is the result of a collaboration between BLiS and Red Boat Fish Sauce. This exceptional barrel aged fish sauce begins with premium Red Boat Fish Sauce 40°N, enhancing its natural flavors with BLiS’ own proprietary 7 month aging process in re-purposed bourbon barrels which have previously held maple syrup. The end result is an outstanding fish sauce that imparts a subtle sweetness and smokiness which is simply not found in other fish sauces. Believe me, there are no words to adequately describe the deeply complex, rich flavor of this amazing stuff. I’m serious when I say that I have considered doing shots of it.
If you’re not that bold, try a few drops in a Caesar salad, in seafood sauces or marinades – anywhere you want to add a subtle touch of barrel-aged umami.
BLiS Barrel Aged Fish Sauce is very new and is still extremely limited in production. Earthy Delights is very proud to be able to offer a few bottles of this rare condiment for sale through the Earthy Delights website.
Southeast Asian Spring Rolls
Spring Roll Ingredients:
- 12 large lettuce leaves (butter, romaine or leaf lettuce work well)
- 2 cups grilled chicken, deboned and pulled into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup cooked rice vermicelli noodles, rinsed & chilled
- 1 carrot, peeled & julienned
- 1 small cucumber, peeled & julienned
- 1 bunch cilantro, rinsed & destemmed
- 1 bunch fresh mint, rinsed & destemmed
- 1 bunch Thai basil, rinsed & destemmed (optional)
- 12 medium cooked shrimp, tails removed & sliced (optional)
- 12 sheets rice paper
Nuoc Cham dipping sauce:
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 – 2 serrano or Thai bird chiles, according to taste
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 6 Tbsp fish sauce
- 4 Tbsp fresh lime juice
- 6 – 8 Tbsp water
To make the sauce, place the garlic, chiles and sugar in a small food processor and whirl until the garlic and chiles are well-chopped, but still slightly chunky. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the fish sauce & lime juice and add water to taste. Serve in individual small bowls for dipping (may be strained if you prefer).
To assemble the rolls:
Prepare all of your ingredients in advance and arrange them conveniently. You’ll need to work fairly fast and organization is important!
Fill a large, flat rimmed dish with 1/2 inch or so of cool water (a pie plate works great).
Slip one sheet of rice paper into the water and immerse it for about 30 seconds. Remove it from the water while it is still fairly stiff and lay it flat on a clean cutting board or work surface. Don’t worry – it will absorb the water and become soft and pliable within a few seconds.
Lay a lettuce leaf flat on the rice paper, close to the bottom edge. Place a thin layer of rice vermicelli noodles on the lettuce leaf. Add a few strips of carrot and cucumber, then a couple of tablespoons of the shredded chicken (or whatever you are using). Now add a few cilantro, mint and Thai basil leaves. Take care not to overfill or you’ll have a tough time rolling it up!
Carefully grasp the bottom edge of the rice paper and lift it up over the ingredients, rolling it gently, but firmly, burrito-style. This can be a little tricky. The roll should be rolled fairly tightly, but not so tightly as to cause the delicate rice paper to break. But don’t worry – you’ll get the hang of it quickly!
After the first roll, fold each side of the rice paper in to cover the ends, then continue to roll. Stop just before you get to the end and place 2 pieces of the shrimp side by side about a half inch from the edge. Complete the last turn and set aside, seam side down. The rice paper will stick to itself and hold the completed roll securely in its shape. Cover with a damp cloth to keep moist.
Repeat with the remaining rice paper sheets, distributing all the ingredients evenly. When all the rolls are done, slice each one in half at a 45 degree angle. Serve with small individual bowls of the dipping sauce.