Fresh Spring Rolls With Peanut Sauce
by Meghan Rodgers
March 24, 2021
Birds are chirping, daffodils are peeking through the dirt and shadows are growing shorter! Spring has finally arrived, and what better way to celebrate than with seasonally-named Fresh Spring Rolls?
In my house, we’re big fans of going out for Pho. The popular piping hot Vietnamese soup hits the spot on those cold snowy, Pittsburgh winter days. We pile those big bowls high with jalapeños and bean sprouts and slurp down every last bit of delicious broth. But as soon as the sun starts shining again over the Steel City, I crave something lighter. That’s when I start to substitute the popular Vietnamese spring roll appetizer on the menu as my main meal.
But why wait to dine out to enjoy this delicious, fresh and fun-to-eat food? You can make dozens of fresh spring rolls for the price you would pay for just one appetizer at a traditional Vietnamese restaurant. Plus, you can customize the ingredients to your liking.
Traditional Vietnamese Spring Rolls are a fresh and healthy recipe, full of vegetables, lean pork and shrimp. Sticking with a vegan diet, I eliminate the meat when I order them out at restaurants as well as when I make them at home. Honestly — you’ll never miss it. The star of the show are definitely the crispy, fresh vegetables and the spicy peanut sauce.
In fact, the Vietnamese word for Spring Rolls is gỏi cuốn. “Gỏi” loosely means salad and “cuốn” means roll — or “salad roll.”And that’s just how I like to make them, as a little salad wrapped up in a sheet of delicate rice paper.
Why I Love This Recipe
You likely already know that reducing food waste is important. Not only does all that wasted food end up taking space in the local landfill (providing you don’t compost it), but it emits harmful greenhouse gases that can speed up the effects of climate change. On a more local level, this wasted produce can cost you hundreds —if not thousands —of dollars a year. The USDA estimates that more than one third of all fruits and vegetables grown by farmers in the United States goes uneaten — or about $162 billion worth of waste.
So how do you stop yourself from wasting food?
Well, it’s helpful to have plenty recipes that you can easily recall and make when you start to see lots of odds and ends or excess produce start to build up in your refrigerator. I always love a good Minestrone Soupto help clear out the produce bin. These spring rolls are another fantastic example of how random ingredients can become something spectacular.
Use whatever you have on-hand. Seriously. This recipe is just a suggestion. I love that this recipe works with any produce. Yes, ANY! Try it with the first snow peas or radishes of the season from your own garden, or try adding green beans, cabbage, kale, carrots or even kiwis, strawberries or cantaloupe — you’ll be amazed how everything just tastes better when wrapped in rice paper and smothered in spicy peanut butter.
Note: Although “Hoisin” means “seafood” in Cantonese, it is made from fermented soybeans, garlic, spices, chilies and sugar making it a suitable condiment for vegans.
Fresh Spring Rolls With Peanut Sauce
This recipe is all about prep. Take the time to chop your veggies and get your workspace organized, and assembly will take no time.
What else you’ll need
Low-lint towel or damp cutting board
Bowl of water to dunk your rice paper (I like using a pie pan)
Large plate (where you can lay your finished rolls)
12 22-cm rice paper wrappers
12 Boston bib lettuce leaves
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 cucumber, sliced
fresh mint leaves
fresh basil leaves
4 tbsp chunky peanut butter (or smooth if that’s what you prefer or have available)
1 1/2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp Sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce)
1/2 tbsp water
Assemble all of your tools and ingredients, including julienned veggies, and rice paper.
Dip one sheet of rice paper in the bowl of water so that the entire surface is covered. Lay your rice paper on the low-lint towel or cutting board. About 1/2 inch away from the bottom (this placement is important for proper rolling), place lettuce leaf on top, followed by veggies and herbs.
Once ingredients are placed, start rolling the paper from the bottom, rolling everything toward the middle. Fold in the left and right sides of the rice paper toward the center, and keep it tight. Finish rolling the spring roll and transfer to plate.
Note: If your rice paper is too stiff, let rest on your surface for another 15 seconds or so to soften. Still too stiff? Try soaking just 1-2 seconds longer. You don’t want to over-soak or rice paper will tear and be too difficult to work with.
To make the Peanut Sauce: Add peanut butter, hoisin sauce, Sriracha and 1/2 tbsp of water to a small bowl and mix well. If you like a thinner sauce, add more water 1/2 tsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.