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solstice kicked my patootie (lot of pics)

Recipe: vietnamese spring rolls

I know it seems that I was MIA here, and I was… but I wasn’t. I was completely in action all weekend which was why I had nary a minute to sit down and write anything coherent (although that assumes what I typically write is coherent…). But it was a lovely weekend and I’ll tell you why: my eye doctor had a last-minute cancellation and asked if I could come in last week instead of July 28, 2036. I have new Oasys contacts for dry eyes on and life has become a lot happier. A lot happier.

wildflowers fully underway in our yard

Just a few of the highlights with lots of pictures, okay? I finally got myself to the Boulder Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Seems trivial enough, but Saturday mornings for us are typically spent UP in the mountains, not DOWN on the flats.

fresh picked lettuce

itty bitty strawberries

boatloads of colorful radishes

The reason I wasn’t in the mountains was because I had a shindig at The Cup, which lovely Gwen organized for Denver/Boulder bloggers. Lady bloggers. Kickass lady bloggers. It was actually a pre-meet for Blogher 09 goers and a great opportunity to network in person with local women who move in different circles. Fascinating, but more importantly, fun. All of the photos from the pre-meet can be viewed here.

these two = definite trouble (manisha and dana)

Sunday, we scrambled to prepare for a friend’s visit until we learned that her flight was cancelled and she wouldn’t be getting to Colorado until 9 pm, thus putting the kibosh on our plans. [Dear Ithaca, NY, I hate your bleeping guts.] So we salvaged what we could of the day.

we enjoyed some sushi for lunch

and took some cake to andrew after his triathlon

By sunset, we sat down to the dinner that we had planned to serve to our friend. It’s a fun and delicious meal that I learned from our dear friends, Todd and Diane who so graciously invited us into their paradise last summer.

summer is getting to this

Vietnamese cuisine (like many non-Chinese Asian cuisines) has always resided behind a veil of confusion for me. I love the food, I see the foreign ingredients at the Asian grocer, but I’m hesitant to make the leap to assume that I know what goes in which dish. When I’m uncertain about a Chinese recipe, I go to my parents or my grandmother or my aunt. When I’m completely clueless about a Viet recipe (which is always), I go to Todd and Diane: great cooks, patient teachers, terrific sense of humor, true friends.

marinade ingredients: brown sugar, lime juice, garlic, fish sauce, chili paste

marinate shrimp or pork or chicken or…

I’m including pictures of labels because my own experience says the brand you buy really does matter when it comes to something like hoisin sauce or fish sauce. I was pleasantly surprised that I actually had all of the ingredients required for the marinade and the dipping sauce. Even if you don’t keep these stocked in your cupboards, more and more (white) supermarkets are starting to stock them. Wowee!

dipping sauce: hoisin, rice wine vinegar, creamy peanut butter, garlic, chili paste

spring roll wrappers – diane said i could use tapioca, so shut up

I didn’t know there were multiple kinds of spring roll wrappers. I didn’t realize I had picked up tapioca wrappers instead of rice paper wrappers. Upon revisiting my local Asian grocer (with the nice Viet lady who shouts a lot, but it’s a gentler kind of shouting – she’s getting used to me) I saw there are indeed many kinds of wrappers. Diane said no worries, that tapioca was just more gelatinous because of the tapioca starch and perhaps a little thinner. She suggested dipping it quicker in the water. Love her.

You can put any kind of protein in the spring rolls: chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, tofu. We chose to marinate shrimp and a couple of pork chops for grilling. To keep the shrimp from curling, Jeremy skewered them straight. It makes for easier rolling of the spring rolls.

grilling shrimp

slicing a few pork chops

What I love about this meal is how fresh it is. Super fresh and loaded with gorgeous vegetables and herbs! When we ate at Todd and Diane’s house, nearly every bit of vegetable matter came straight from their magical garden. *pluck* just like that! To do the dish as much justice as I could, I procured fresh herbs and vegetables from the local Farmer’s Market. But, it wasn’t as good as Todd and Diane’s garden.

thai basil, mint, cilantro, lettuce

peppers, cucumber, mung bean sprouts

The fun part is assembling your own food. Actually, Todd and Diane let us cook our own food on our individual joy cooks at their place which was doubly entertaining. What you do is take a spring roll sheet and dip it in warm water for a second or two and set it on your work surface. Then load it up with goodies from the spread.

quick dippy

colorful and healthy choice of fillings

Excellent pointer from Diane: lay the lettuce leaves down first, it helps to keep the pokier ingredients from tearing through the wrapper. Yes ma’am!


rolling carefully, but keep it tight

You can tuck the sides in or not according to your preference or dexterity. Once the roll is ready, dip into the awesome sauce and enjoy edible summer. [Just a heads up to any friends coming to our place for dinner this summer – you WILL be eating this!]

thank you, t&d for teaching me to do it right

Vietnamese Spring Rolls
[print recipe]
from White on Rice Couple guest blogging at Rasa Malaysia

Note: you can substitute any meat or tofu for these rolls

1 lb. pork chops (prefer darker meat)
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled, de-veined
double batch of nuoc cham (one for each meat)
~30 10-inch diameter spring roll wrappers (rice, tapioca, etc.)
1 lb. fresh mung bean sprouts
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced thin
1 large English cucumber, cut into thin strips
large bunch of fresh herbs (mint, cilantro, Thai basil, regular basil), washed
large bunch of fresh lettuce leaves, washed
hoisin peanut dipping sauce
warm water in a large shallow bowl (large enough to accommodate a spring roll wrapper)

hoisin peanut dipping sauce
8 oz hoisin sauce
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed (I crush it into a paste)
1 tsp chili-garlic paste or 1 minced thai chili, to taste
warm water

Mix all ingredients together until combined. If sauce is too thick, add hot water and mix in until you achieve desired consistency.

nuoc cham marinade from Creative Loafing
2 limes, juice of
2 tbsps brown sugar
4 tbsps fish sauce (I like Three Crabs brand)
8 cloves garlic, minced
chile-garlic paste to taste (or finely sliced hot chiles)

Whisk together all ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Marinate the pork chops in a plastic bag with a batch of nuoc cham for a couple of hours. Marinate the peeled shrimp in a ziploc bag with a batch of nuoc cham for an hour. Wipe metal skewers with vegetable oil (or soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes) and skewer the shrimp lengthwise to keep them straight. Grill the pork on high heat for 1.5 minutes per side then cook over indirect heat (someplace on the grill with no flame under it – i.e. shut off one side) and cover. Cook for 4-7 minutes per side until an internal temperature of 145° to 150°F.* Let the pork rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Grill the shrimp skewers on high heat for a minute or two. Flip and grill another minute or two until done.

Assemble the spring rolls by dipping one spring roll sheet into a shallow bowl of warm water for a second or two and setting it flat on your plate. Layer lettuce, herbs, vegetables, and meat in a small strip about 1/3 of the way from the edge nearest you. Roll from the edge nearest you and tuck in the sides as you go if you wish. Roll tightly, but not so tightly that you tear the wrapper. Dip in the hoisin peanut dipping sauce and eat!

For excellent instructions (with photos) on how to roll the spring rolls, see how White on Rice Couple do it right.

Serves 4-6.

* This is according to The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly.

53 nibbles at “solstice kicked my patootie (lot of pics)”

  1. Rachel says:

    It was great to meet other local women bloggers! Thank you again for taking all those photos. Your food photography is amazing.

  2. sheauen says:

    spring rolls are my comfort food. i used to sit with my grandma and make a whole sheet pan of these rolls for dinner. then the whole family would come out and just go to town. we do the more traditional filling of shrimp and pork, but i love a spring roll in any form.

  3. sheauen says:

    whoop quick edit…poached shrimp and pork instead of grilled shrimp and pork for the filling. i’ll have to try it with grilled shrimp/pork. i’m sure it has much better flavors.

  4. Kalyn says:

    Great post. I love this type of spring roll. Looks like a good time was had by all.

  5. Gastronomer says:

    Vietnamese spring rolls never looked so swank! I like! I like a lot ;-)

  6. Lori says:

    Spring rolls are one of my favorites. Dunking is the best part!

  7. Whitney says:

    Those rolls look wonderful! I love vietnamese food so much and grew up eating these on the Southwest side of Houston.

    I will have to search out some of the ingredients to give this a try.

  8. Caitlin says:

    Oh wow, those are gorgeous! I absolutely love spring rolls, even with mint in them; surprising, since I tend to not like mint in most things. But the marinade? With fish sauce, it *has* to be good.

  9. Kristin says:

    We love Vietnamese food & these are gorgeous! Thank you to you & Todd & Diane. Yum!

  10. Cate says:

    This is my favorite appetizer of all time! I usually just use hoisin sauce with chopped peanuts stirred in for dipping, but this all looks divine.
    I’m incredibly jealous of your farmers market…I would kill for a strawberry about now!

  11. cindy says:

    yum! i think this meal may be summer all wrapped up. i think i want to eat pretty much ever photo here…maybe even the wildflowers… i have the same issues at the asian market…except pretty much everything is foreign save for the korean stuff. i get overwhelmed by the variety. i was also a sushi noob until two weeks ago…all i can say is what the f! where have i been all this time…
    delicious post jen…seriously loving all that fresh produce.

  12. Asianmommy says:

    Thank you for this recipe–it looks fabulous!
    BTW, I love my Oasys lenses, too.

  13. Rosa says:

    Oh, I adore fresh spring rolls! They taste so good and are delightfully refreshing!

    Another beautiful post…



  14. Manggy says:

    Love these (love T&D too, of course :). The only problem with me is I’m never organized enough to get all the veggies I need in one go, but I do have all the sauce ingredients too, yay! (Will have to look for wrappers, though. I need to stay away from *our* “white” [lol] supermarkets!)

  15. RavenousCouple says:

    Love your rendition of spring rolls! There’s so many wrappers out there.. try the square ones and the 3 bamboo brand. Kim is the best at making this, she likes to save the meat/seafood last so that it shows on the outside of the roll instead of hidden among the veggies. Ever since we ate at Brodards (famous for their nem nuong rolls), we include a fried chive roll inside each spring roll…great textural crunch!

  16. Gab* says:

    Such a great summer dish! Winter here at the moment so I’m very jealous!

  17. annette says:

    What is the name of the wildflowers …There very pretty..Any info on them….

  18. Debbie says:

    Your pictures are beautiful. The food all looks so fantastic…if I were there I would head straight to the cake!!

  19. SallyBR says:

    Very tasty looking rolls – never seen the tapioca paper, but as a Brazilian I am sure I would love those. If you have a chance to post a comment, I would like to know how they compare in flavor and texture to the regular rice ones.

  20. Jenny says:

    Everything looks great!

  21. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Vietnamese food is my comfort food (particularly pho). I LOVE that you got your hands on real Thai basil. I am having to grow my own this year because I cannot get it.

    Tapioca rice papers? Who knew?!

    Beautiful pictures, as always. Love your wildflowers.

  22. Chez US says:

    Love Vietnamese food. Diane & Todd, taught us how to make these fantastic spring rolls as well … we eat them very often. Great dish to make with friends around the table, they always love it!

  23. Amy says:

    This looks like a must make/eat for summer! Can’t WAIT!!!!! I guess it will have to wait until after Little League when I might have 5 minutes to actually prepare and enjoy a dinner…..sigh. Thanks for sharing this gem!

  24. Valérie says:

    I love making these in the summer! Yours are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing the filling recipe!

  25. Melissa says:

    Glad you had a lovely weekend, though that sucks about your friend’s delay.

    You have no idea how much I love spring rolls. I was already planning on eating at my local Viet place for lunch and now I’m drooling in anticipation because I always get a small order of these. They make theirs with just shrimp but they’re flawless and filled with very fresh herbs and lettuce and sprouts. Even with a large Vietnamese community here, so many places make them, er, not so good. I’m sure Diane could confirm that.

    Don’t know if I will soon venture into making my own. But you’re an inspiration as usual!

  26. Jess says:

    I made these just the other day! I used hoisin pork and strips of mango and it was entirely sublime.

  27. Stefanie says:

    hi – those look SO good! my sister-in-law is vietnamese and i love going to her parent’s house for meals! btw – your knife skills are impressive.

  28. Eesh says:

    Looks wonderful! I’m always a little intimidated by Asian recipes, although I don’t know why. What’s the lovely cocktail in a couple of the pictures? I make something that looks similar (Juice of a Few Flowers by Ina Garten), but without the lychees.

  29. Andreas says:

    Great looking spring rolls. Should be fun to try this one.

  30. jo says:

    Everything looks so fresh and wonderful. Especially the strawberries and how I wish we had such plump and juicy looking ones here. I love spring rolls and I must say that yours is a class higher than the ones I usually make (poor man version is mine) – delicious and stuffed to the brim!

  31. Mrs Ergül says:

    Wow! This looks oh so good! We have a friend visiting right today. I will see what I can do about this!

  32. Andrea says:

    Girl, you (and T&D) are a lifesaver. I’ve been craving these like crazy and have been wanting to make them at home so I put in my favorite proportions. Can’t wait to make these myself!

  33. Shoshanna says:

    Hi Jen,

    I made the spring rolls tonight! Hubby and I loved it.

    I have a question for you: After making the spring rolls, I realized how easily the rice paper tore. We made a huge batch to have for tomorrow’s lunch and stacked the rolls on top of each other. When I went to put them away in smaller containers, some of the wrappers tore. Do you have any tips/ideas on how to prevent the spring rolls from sticking together and tearing?

    Thanks a mill!

    P.S. I haven’t commented in a while, but your blog is a daily MUST READ for me. :o) :P

  34. Simone (junglefrog) says:

    I love vietnamese springrolls. We’ve been “making” them ourself only when we were in Vietnam on holiday. Great fun! But I have to try this at home too. You’re right that you can buy most ingredients in regular supermarkets these days although there is always a toko around the corner where they will the more exotic ingredients! Thanks for the step by step instructions!

  35. Eileen says:

    thanks so much for the reminder to make these again and also for the tip on using lettuce as a protective layer–brilliant! I use a thinner dipping sauce (soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, roasted sesame oil, hot pepper flakes), but the pb-chili paste version sounds like a great alternative that might better stick to the rolls, yum!

  36. Tartelette says:

    Oh I love when this happen: was discussing vietnamese spring rolls with T&D the same day you were posting! You are right…they rock…you rock…I am lucky to know such amazing souls!
    BTW, they do look wonderfully tasty!

  37. Andrew Hyde says:

    The cake was AMAZING!

    Thank you so much!

  38. jenyu says:

    Rachel – thanks! It was so nice to meet you too :)

    Sheauen – what a nice memory. The grilling ads more flavor, but poached is great too.

    Kalyn – thank you, hon.

    Gastronomer – ha ha, thank you :)

    Lori – mmm, I have to agree.

    Whitney – oh, lucky you. I didn’t start eating these until college. It’s so simple and good though.

    Caitlin – Funny, I feel that way about the cilantro. I’m not a huge fan, but I love it in the rolls!

    Cindy – thanks and happy to know that you finally got hooked on sushi. THAT is seriously good stuff.

    Asianmommy – you’re welcome. Those contacts are the bomb!

    Rosa – thank you, dear.

    Mark – I actually get excited gathering all of those fresh ingredients together. Perhaps it’s my demented version of gardening? ;)

    RavenousCouple – nice! I’ve seen rolls done this way in restaurants, but I think I would probably break mine if I tried it that way ;) A fried chive, huh? That sounds great.

    Gab – awww, well, it’s also doable in winter (if you can get your hands on the herbs).

    Annette – the blue are “blue flax” and the red are “indian paintbrush”.

    Debbie – :)

    SallyBR – the tapioca paper doesn’t taste terribly different from the rice paper sheets. They are thinner and more chewy (gelatinous) as Diane had described. Really though, they’re great and just as good.

    Jenny – thanks!

    TKW – I need to learn to make a bowl of that! It was just my dumb luck that I found it at the market (only 1 stand had it). Very jealous that you can grow your own. *Sigh*

    Chez Us – it’s true, it’s a great way to share a meal with someone else. So much fun!

    Amy – you’re welcome. I hope you find that 5 minutes :)

    Valerie – thank you!

    Melissa – you have no idea how jealous I am that you have a place you can get these!

    Jess – mmm, mango sounds like an excellent addition.

    Stefanie – lucky lucky! Eating at their house must be such a treat.

    Eesh – it’s a passion fruit lychee martini that Jeremy made (for himself). He says the lychee martini tastes better.

    Andreas – thanks!

    Jo – thank you :)

    Mrs. E – I hope you got a chance to try it out.

    Andrea – it’s quite easy to make. I think it’s the gathering of the ingredients that is the most work for me!

    Shoshanna – well, the rice paper sticks to itself pretty well. I pack a few for Jeremy for lunch the next day when we eat this dish and will roll one, then wrap it individually in plastic wrap. That’s the only way I know of keeping it whole without tears.

    Simone – I can only imagine how awesome it must have been to dine in Vietnam. Wow.

    Eileen – thank Diane for the tip, she’s the “local” :) I like the nuoc cham dipping sauce too. Kinda torn between the two.

    Tartelette – ;) You’d be totally floored had you visited their gorgeous home. They are incredibly hosts.

    Andrew – always trying to find foods that WON’T kill you, my dear. You’re very welcome.

  39. Y says:

    What a feast, what a feast! And now, there will never be a dry eye in the house…

  40. Margie says:

    I can’t believe I found this….I am salivating and writing a grocery list of, MUST HAVE’S. I can’t think of any food that is more satisfying and refreshing. Somehow I think I can do this. (My mentor is noted for capturing us with her photo’s and then giving us explicit directions on how to make some of the world’s finest foods.) ;)

    Thanks, Jenzie!!!!

  41. jenyu says:

    Y – ha ha, you’re so witty ;)

    Margie – it’s not that hard and it is totally worth eating no matter how it is rolled. Hope you get to make it. Perfect for summer!

  42. Zaara says:

    So now I can add my powers of telepathy to my long list of notable and admirable powers. I swear I was on your site roaming around for spring roll how-to’s and you post the very next day. However, that little note you made on the joy cooks has veered me off on a tangent. I saw it on amazon – were they good? They look brilliant – yet – plastic-ky. Here in TX with our second month of +100 degree weather, grilling outdoors has become slightly painful…

    Love your site. Love your photos.

  43. Mrs Ergül says:

    I did and I love it. I love the ‘crunch’ from the fresh vegetables when I take a bite! Now I just have to locate the rice paper wrappers. For now, I am using the wrappers we use for popiah :)

  44. jenyu says:

    Zaara – I don’t own the joy cooks, but we used them at T&D’s house. They’re solid to use and we loved them. I just can’t justify buying MORE stuff to cram into my kitchen… so that means I will have to go to T&D’s house :)

    MRs. E – Mmm, isn’t it good? I would think you could find that kind of wrapper where you are for sure!

  45. Sally says:

    I have been loving these at a local vietnamese Barbecue restaurant and they serve it platter style just like above- it makes for the most awesome fun with friends. the rice papers come soaked and stacked on round plastic mesh circles ready for rolling. I was told I could buy these at a vietnamese supply store- however I bought some plastic canvas in the craft section of walmart- and cut my own! we always put ample tai basil in our greens too.

  46. Alex says:

    I make this at least once a week! It’s so easy. I usually use ground pork because it’s quick and I like to add green onions too.

  47. Kaput! A Study in Sloth — The Kitchen Witch says:

    […] me, and want to do the spring rolls the way they SHOULD be done, I encourage you to check out this post from Jen at userealbutter. Jen is a friend, a terrific cook and a kick-ass photographer. This girl […]

  48. Michelle says:

    Enjoying your site – and Vietnamese Spring Rolls were probably one of those things I started with years ago.
    We love them with the fine bean thread noodles (soaked tender), spicy sprouts (radish +), julienned radish and cilantro to go with the Thai basil, and mint.

    A slightly dampened paper towel, then plastic wrap will let you take lunch for everyone the next day.

  49. Vietnamese Spring Rolls says:

    […] Use Real Butter’s Spring Rolls  […]

  50. Saejung says:

    Hi Jen,
    Your website replaced all of my cookbooks! Starting this weekend, Jane (my niece) and I will try one recipe from your website/week. Every time I visiting your blog/website, I feel I am taking a mini vacation for me. Thanks! Hugs, Saejung from Madison, WI

  51. Shelley says:

    This is my new favorite blog. At this moment I am mad at you though, I am at work and am very hungry and cannot make this dish right now ;( I am a huge fan of vietnamese food, especially the roll your own spring rolls. I have made them at home before but am really excited to try the marinade and dipping sauce recipes. Thanks for this one.

  52. Vietnamese Spring Roll says:

    […] adapted from use real butter […]

  53. sue says:

    Love your website, reminded me i had some rice wraps some where and wanted my children to get ‘active’ so what better motive than your lovely pics.
    Thought you might like to see our take on your lovely recipe. Basically used what we had in the fridge. Thanks so much!

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