Spring rolls were my first exposure to Vietnamese food, and I was in love from bite one. Fresh and crispy vegetables, usually with a protein, wrapped in delicate rice paper with fresh mint and cilantro. It’s a brilliant little packet of goodness. And then you get to dip it in a peanut sauce? Genius!
What wasn’t so genius for me is that spring rolls traditionally also include a big bunch of rice vermicelli noodles. Sure, they are a “comfort food” type addition to the spring rolls (after all, they don’t contribute much flavor). But rice noodles, especially those tiny vermicelli ones, represent an added level of carbs that my body does not tolerate well. Traditionally made, Vietnamese spring rolls with rice vermicelli are not my friends.
Lucky for me, I once worked with a beautiful woman of Vietnamese birth, who made the most delicious spring rolls. Our work team was made up of a bunch of foodies, all with diverse backgrounds and talents. We all frequently prepared food at home to bring to work to share with the team. When Kim brought spring rolls and realized I was avoiding them because of the rice vermicelli, she started bringing some especially made for me with no noodles. That’s the kind of beautiful person she is. And then she taught me how to make them, as well as the peanut sauce. I told you she’s a beautiful person!
Not only did Kim teach me how to make spring rolls, but she also encouraged me to ask for them in Vietnamese restaurants without the vermicelli, and instead with extra veggies. She said that most Vietnamese restaurants would be happy to accommodate my request, and she was right. In the 10 years or so since, I have only found one restaurant that would not serve me a spring roll without noodles. And I eat at A LOT of Vietnamese restaurants. Believe me. Steve and I are Vietnamese-food-aholics! And we kind of addicted Matt as well…
So, if you have never had Vietnamese spring rolls, you better get out there and get you some. They are AMAZING! And once you are in love, then start making them yourself, because they are pretty simple. I’ll show you!
let’s make some low carb shrimp spring rolls
I’m going to show the ingredients in three stages…
You’ll need rice paper…
There are several brands out there. This is the one Kim initially recommended to me, but use what you can find at your local store.
Shrimp, veggies, and herbs…
And the stuff to make the peanut dipping sauce.
I always start with the peanut sauce because as soon as I’ve assembled those beautiful little spring rolls, I want to eat them right away. I don’t want to wait while the peanut sauce is prepared.
To make each spring roll, immerse a sheet of rice paper in warm water to completely cover it, but remove it right away.
Shake off excess water, then lay it on a flat clean surface.
Prepare one leaf of lettuce, using it as a cup, filling it with cucumber slices, carrots, and cilantro.
Then lay three cooked shrimps on the bottom 1/3 of the moistened rice paper. I placed mint leaves on the shrimp, but you can add it to the veggies on the lettuce if you prefer. It was just easier for you to see how many I used by placing them on the shrimp.
Then roll the lettuce around the other veggies to make a tube. Place the veggie tube over the shrimp, and then snugly fold the bottom side of the moistened rice paper over the bundle.
Next, fold the sides of the rice paper so that the left and right edges of the filling are fully enclosed on all sides.
Then roll towards the top, applying just enough pressure to make a tight roll without ripping the fragile rice paper.
Then roll the spring roll in plastic wrap. This is very important! Left exposed to the air, the moistened rice paper dries up and turns to tough leather. It will ruin your beautiful little packet of brilliance.
Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Since this is an assemble-as-you-go dish, you might have some leftover veggies. Whenever I do, I toss them into a sealed container and make a salad out of them later.
Keep the individually plastic-wrapped spring rolls in the fridge until ready to serve.
Look at those gorgeous little things! And not a vermicelli noodle in sight! Of course, if you want the noodles, go ahead and add them. Not me, though. These are my Kim-inspired, genius little packets of Vietnamese deliciousness!
By the way, I like my peanut sauce kinda spicy. Steve still shakes his head, because when we were first married, I totally avoided heat in my food. Now, I sometimes add more chili to my food then he does! And that’s a good thing! I believe that food, like everything else in life, is something to be experienced through living, from which we learn and evolve, and then move forward to the next flavor experience.
If you are looking for a low carb spring roll, this is your recipe. If you don’t care about carbs, then by all means, add rice vermicelli to the filling. Either way, this is a delicious, fresh, rewarding taste bite.
- FOR THE PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE
- 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 1½ tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 1 medium garlic, finely diced
- 5 teaspoons of water, or as needed for consistency
- Sriracha or sambal oelek paste to taste (optional)
- FOR THE SPRING ROLLS
- 8 rice paper sheets
- 4 ounces julienned carrots (approximately 2 medium carrots)
- 8 ounces cucumber without seeds (about two regular cucumbers) cut into ⅛-inch spears
- 8 butter lettuce leaves (use two if leaves are small, so increase the count as needed)
- 24 mint leaves
- 16 cilantro stems, with leafless twigs snapped off and removed
- 24 steamed shrimps, peeled with tails off
- Mix the peanut sauce ingredients together, using enough water as needed to create a thick, creamy, but pourable dipping sauce.
- Fill a large bowl with very warm water.
- Fully submerge a single sheet of rice paper in the water. Shake off excess moisture, and place the sheet on a clean, flat work surface.
- Place three cooked shrimp, side by side, on the top portion of the bottom third of the rice paper.
- Turning a lettuce leaf to form a cup, add ⅛ of the carrots, ⅛ of the cucumber, 2 cilantro springs, and 3 mint leaves. Roll the leaf to create an enclosed packet.
- Place the lettuce and veggie packet over the shrimp.
- Pull the bottom of the moistened rice paper snugly over the shrimp and veggie packet. Then fold the left and right sides of the rice paper towards the middle to over the open ends of the shrimp and veggies.
- Firmly roll the bundle towards the top of the rice paper until you have a neatly wrapped tube.
- Wrap the spring roll in plastic wrap to prevent the rice paper from drying and become leathery.
- Repeat with remaining ingredients to make a total of 8 spring rolls.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Serve with the peanut dipping sauce.