In Vietnamese, fresh spring rolls made with rice paper are called gỏi cuốn, translating to “salad rolls” (gỏi is means “salad” and cuốn means “to coil” or “to roll”). I don’t speak Vietnamese, but if you are interested in learning how to pronounce gỏi cuốn, watch this video! The presenter breaks down the pronunciation of various Vietnamese foods very well.
Typically, you’ll find Vietnamese spring rolls filled with shrimp, pork vegetables, herbs and rice vermicelli. In this spring roll recipe, I’m primarily using shrimp, vegetables, herbs, and noodles for the filling. Feel free to add or replace ingredients based on your preferences and what’s available to you.
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE VIETNAMESE SPRING ROLLS
RICE PAPER (Bánh Tráng)
I like using larger circular rice papers (22cm, about 8.5 inches) because they hold more filling. As an aside, most rice paper sheets are produced in Asia, so you’ll likely see them labeled with metric measurements. Smaller rice paper sheets also work for this recipe, but your spring rolls will be much smaller.
My favorite brand of rice paper is the Three Ladies Brand because they tend to stretch better and are less likely to tear. On their packaging, you’ll see a drawing of three ladies, and you can find them at Asian supermarkets or on Amazon. If I don’t have time to go to an Asian supermarket, I will buy the brand photographed above from Raley’s or a similar grocer. For more information about various rice paper brands, check out this comprehensive guide from Andrea Nguyen.
Typically, Vietnamese spring rolls are made with rice vermicelli, which are very thin rice noodles. Various manufacturers will call them thin rice noodles, rice sticks, or maifun. One important thing to note is that the cooking time of the noodles varies across brands. Use my recipe below as a guide, but double check the manufacturer’s suggested cooking time.
Medium-sized shrimp (about 21 to 25 count) work best for spring rolls. I like cooking the shrimp with the shells on because I think the color of the shrimp is more vibrant once cooked. The easiest way to cook the shrimp is to boil them for two minutes. Then, remove the shrimp from the boiling water and let them cool for at least 5 minutes before peeling off the shells.
Many Vietnamese spring roll recipes use lettuce leaves because they help make the rolling process much easier. When you nestle the noodles, vegetables, and herbs inside the lettuce leaf, the filling won’t spread out everywhere as you roll up the spring roll. Plus, the lettuce offers a nice color contrast to the shrimp.
I prefer to use butter lettuce because the circular leaves are perfectly shaped for spring rolls. If butter lettuce is not easy to find, feel free to use red leaf or green leaf lettuce. Remember to snap off the bottoms of the leaves to get rid of the tougher stem. The stems can easily poke through the rice paper once the spring rolls are rolled up.
VEGETABLES AND HERBS
Although I like the combination of carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, and mint, use whatever you prefer. Sometimes, I’ll throw in red cabbage, sliced avocado, or basil. The sky is the limit in terms of the ingredients you can use for spring rolls! Make sure to slice the vegetables thinly so that they are easier to chew.
HOW TO MAKE VIETNAMESE SPRING ROLLS
SET UP THE WORK SURFACE
I usually roll spring rolls on top of a chopping board. To prevent the rice paper from adhering to the board, I quickly wet the board by brushing water over it with my hand. After every two spring rolls or so, I will wet the board again.
Alternatively, you can lay a damp towel over your work surface and roll the spring rolls directly on the towel. Mama Lin prefers this method because you don’t have to constantly brush water over the board.
DIP THE RICE PAPER IN LUKEWARM WATER
To soften dry rice paper, quickly dip the rice paper in a bowl of lukewarm water, no longer than a few seconds. Don’t worry if the paper feels stiff when you take it out of the water. The rice paper will continue to soften on the chopping board. If you find that the rice paper is wrinkling and softening too quickly, the water may be too hot. Add some cold water to the bowl.
ADD THE FILLING
Lay a piece of butter lettuce over the lower edge of the rice paper. Then, top the lettuce with noodles, vegetables, and mint. Next, line the shrimp about 1 1/2 inches below the top edge of the rice paper. By leaving a gap between the shrimp and vegetables, the shrimp will look more vibrant in the final roll because they will be covered by only one layer of rice paper.
ROLL THE SPRING ROLL
When you are ready to roll the spring roll, grab the lower edge of the rice paper with your thumbs and pointer fingers, lift, and roll up the spring roll. Use your other fingers to hold the filling together. Continue rolling the spring roll until you reach the shrimp.
Then, fold the left and right sides of the spring roll toward the center (see photographs above). Finally, roll the spring roll all the way to the end.
CAN YOU MAKE FRESH SPRING ROLLS AHEAD?
Although you can prepare the filling and sauces up to 2 days ahead, I highly recommend that you consume these shrimp spring rolls within several hours of making them. If you refrigerate spring rolls overnight, the rice paper hardens, making them difficult to chew. You can microwave spring rolls on high for 30 seconds, but the texture won’t be the same as freshly made rolls. Another issue is that the rice paper tears over time over time, especially around the shrimp. For optimal texture and appearance, eat the spring rolls the same day you make them.
SPRING ROLL DIPPING SAUCE
Traditionally, spring rolls are served with nước chấm, a Vietnamese dipping sauce made of fish sauce, chilli, sugar, and lime juice. I have a recipe below for the nước chấm. I slightly prefer using a peanut sauce for this recipe because I love the richness of the peanut sauce contrasting with the texture of the fresh spring roll. One final alternative is hoisin dipping sauce, which is simply hoisin sauce mixed with water. Growing up, I often ate shrimp or seafood with hoisin sauce. After all, hoisin (海鮮) means seafood. When I tested this recipe, I spread hoisin sauce on a few rolls and thought it tasted good. That’s why I decided to add it in as a third dipping sauce option. Mixing hoisin sauce with water thins out the sauce so that it’s easier for dipping.
VIDEO: ROLLING TECHNIQUE FOR VIETNAMESE SPRING ROLLS
Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls
- 18 medium shell-on shrimp (21/25 count), about 3/4 pounds, defrosted if frozen
- 3 ounces thin rice vermicelli (maifun)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
- 1 to 1 1/2 Persian cucumber, cut into matchsticks (see note 1)
- a large red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
- 1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves
- 12 pieces of butter lettuce, bottom tough stems removed (see note 2)
- 12 large 22cm circular rice paper sheets
- warm water for rolling spring rolls
Peanut Sauce (see note 3)
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup filtered water
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons maple syrup, can sub with brown sugar (see note 4)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 Thai chilli, sliced
- a clove of garlic, minced
Hoisin Dipping Sauce
- 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 3 tablespoons filtered water
Prepare the Dipping Sauce (see note 5)
- Pick your dipping sauce of choice above and mix all the sauce ingredients together. Make sure to use warm water for the nuoc cham so that the sugar dissolves more easily.
- Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
- I like to prepare the sauce before making the spring rolls so that the flavors have a longer time to develop.
Prepare the Shrimp
- Fill a medium saucepan or small pot with water and bring it to boil on high heat (see note 6).
- Once the water boils, add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the water and let them cool for 5 minutes. Peel the shells from the shrimp.
- Lay a shrimp on its side on a chopping board. Gently press the shrimp down with one hand and use the other to slice the shrimp in half, horizontally (knife parallel to the chopping board). Repeat with the remaining shrimp.
Prepare the Noodles
- Fill a large saucepan or small pot with water and bring it to boil on high heat.
- Turn off the heat. Let the noodles sit in the hot water for about 5 to 8 minutes. Double check the package directions to see how long they should sit in hot water as the cooking time varies across different brands.
- Once the noodles have softened, drain and rinse the noodles under cold water. I like cutting the noodles with kitchen scissors several times so they are shorter and easier to grab.
Set Up Spring Roll Station
- Fill a large bowl with lukewarm water to wet the rice paper sheets.
- Transfer all the vegetables, shrimp, herbs, and noodles into bowls and arrange them on your work top.
- Get a chopping board ready. Dip your hand in the water and brush water over the surface of the chopping board so that it is damp. I usually wet the surface again after every 2 spring rolls. Alternatively, lay a damp paper towel over your work surface.
Roll the Spring Rolls (refer to the photo or video in the post for reference)
- Quickly dip a sheet of rice paper in the lukewarm water to moisten the entire surface. This should take no longer than a few seconds.
- Lay the wet rice paper on your work surface. Place a piece of butter lettuce close to the bottom edge of the rice paper. Arrange a small pinch each of rice noodles, carrots, cucumber, red bell pepper, and mint leaves over the center of the lettuce leaf (see note 7).
- Arrange 3 pieces of shrimp about 1 1/2 to 2 inches below the top edge of the rice paper. Make sure that the orange/pink side is facing down.
- Grab the lower edge of the rice paper and lettuce and start rolling up the spring roll. Once you have reached the shrimp, fold in the left and right sides. Finish rolling up the spring roll all the way to the end.
- Repeat the rolling process with the rest of the ingredients. If the chopping board is looking dry, brush some water over the board.
- Serve the spring rolls with the dipping sauce.
- I know this is an awkward number for Persian cucumbers. However, they can be fairly small sometimes, so one will not be enough. Alternatively, you can use half of an English cucumber. Use the extra half cucumber for a salad or snack!
- Remove the stiff stems of the butter lettuce so that the stem doesn’t pierce through the rice paper once the spring rolls are rolled up. You can also use green leaf lettuce as a substitute. I would only use the tops of the lettuce and cut off the stiff stem.
- You can prepare the peanut sauce up to two days before, but the peanut sauce will become very thick in the refrigerator overnight. You can thin out the sauce with a little more water or heat it in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.
- If you are using brown sugar, dilute the sugar in warm water so that it dissolves completely.
- I like to prepare the sauce before making the spring rolls so that the flavors have a longer time to develop.
- I usually cook the shrimp and noodles simultaneously, so I have 2 saucepans ready with boiling water.
- If you are looking for more flavor inside the spring rolls, you can add a little hoisin or peanut sauce over the noodles and vegetables before you roll everything up.