Vietnamese fresh Spring Rolls

Goi Cuon Vietnamese Fresh spring roll (summer roll) have become more and more popular around the world. It is also known popularly as Vietnamese fresh spring rolls. We’ve got a surprise in our store called jicama; they’re just about the freshest thing I can put in it: a mixture of crunchy herbs, aromatic leaves and crisp, squidgy noodles, all filled snugly into a feather light thin rice wrapper.

Goi Cuon - Vietnamese Fresh Spring Roll

Vietnamese fresh Spring Rolls

In fact, fresh spring rolls have what first hooked me on the tasty flavours of Vietnamese way of cooking: so much lighter and punchier than the fried snacks I was expecting. Gourmet magazine’s description – “a salad stuffed into an edible container” – sums them up nicely.

Once you’ve learned the basics of preparing it, you can cook with the recipe to your heart’s content (many versions are quite low in fat). But the guiding principle should always be to stuff as many contrasts of taste and texture into eating as possible while retaining the fresh roll’s elegant appearance. But what’s the best way to start?

Meat

The most familiar version online seems to be a little prawn roll, with or without pork. Most recipes just for specifying cooked shrimp, we briefly simmer them in lemongrass-infused coconut milk before use. The lemongrass is a good touch, but we can’t taste the coconut so remember that’s more crucial, I think, to buy the shrimps raw and boil them in salted water, we suggest, so you should act as the tasty element in what’s differently a sweet dish. Shrimps in Vietnam tend to be big spiny ones that are halfway to langoustine, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t use smaller prawns in your country if you’d prefer – although the big, vibrantly coloured Vietnamese versions do look more beautiful in the rice wrappers.

ingredient Goi Cuon - Vietnamese Fresh Spring Roll

Ingredient Goi Cuon – Vietnamese Fresh Spring Roll

Some the recipes also suggest you add pork, usually cooked belly as Hanoi Free Tours By Foot suggests, by simmering the pork meat in salted water until tender, then it needs to be thinly sliced before use. As well as making the dish more important, the meat, like the shrimps acts as a tasty balance to the other components, while also adding a richness of this delicacy. For a lighter dish, though, I’d leave it out.

(If you eat neither pork or prawns, Hanoi Free Tours By Foot suggests chicken thigh as an alternative, or you can find a lot of vegetarian versions online)

The vegetables and fresh herbs

Fresh Lettuce – the soft sort rather than other crispy vegetables – seems to be the one of an essential ingredient in this dish. The leaves are usually used whole as a second layer in themselves, although someone calls for them should be shredded before eating, which I think gives the rolls a better for enjoying. However, some people uses Chinese cabbage instead, which I’m not going to do that, it may be crunchier a little bit, but the slightly real flavour seems all wrong.

We stop with lettuce, but the most people stuff in a few more fresh vegetables: Some of my friends prefer bean sprouts, shredded carrot, cucumber and or even pineapple, and carrots. Of course, some aren’t just any carrots; they’re also tossed with lime juice and sugar in the texture before use, which makes its taste a bit mushy. It also spoils the intended contrast between the slightly soft, crunchy roll and the punchy dipping sauce. Pineapple is too sweet to me – but otherwise, I usually pack in it as many different ingredients and flavours as possible, except bean sprouts, which, though quite crunchy, don’t taste fresh enough for my liking.

recipe Goi Cuon - Vietnamese Fresh Spring Roll

The vegetables and fresh herbs

Herbs play a crucial part in Vietnamese cooking – they’re used more as a salad leaf than a garnish, and in the fresh rolls, it’s no exception. We keep things simple with just coriander, but everyone else goes a little bit crazy. Our friends use garlic and Chinese chives. Some of them also go for Thai basil, while others suggest also adding fresh mint, perilla leaves and coriander, describing fresh mint as resembling “minty lemon balm” and perilla leaves as having “peppery, cinnamon and dill flavours”. Cycling around Hanoi on the hottest day of the year, but I’m pleased I’ve got it: the perilla leaves especially to add an unusual, sweetly spicy taste to the rolls. If you can’t get them but have local markets nearby then Thai basil is an excellent substitute and works well with the coriander and the freshness of mint. Don’t be tempted to substitute Italian basil if you can’t get either, though; just leave it out.

Noodles and Wrappers

The only big element of this delicate dish – they are surprisingly difficult to get right. The ideal texture, as I can tell, is yielding but still slightly chewy. Many recipes dodge the issue by taking you towards “packet instructions of fresh rolls making”, but we suggest dunking them in boiling water for two minutes, while our friend (Huong) goes for 5–10 minutes, “until soft”. I find our friend’s a bit too squidgy, so we think four minutes seems ideal. All the recipes are careful to teach you to soak the noodles, to stop them cooking any further, and then to drain them carefully before use, or you’ll end up with wet summer rolls, which would be a terrible thing indeed. Gourmet, which I’m beginning to suspect of wilful non-conformity, instead uses rice sticks of the flat, wide kind usually seen in dishes like pad thai, soaked for 10 minutes and then tossed with lemon juice before use. So, I don’t think the texture needs any extra liquid or indeed flavour – that’s exactly what we want the dipping sauce is for – and the noodles themselves are too big for easy rolling.

wrapper goi cuon - Vietnamese Fresh Spring Roll

Noodles and Wrappers

Rice paper rounds are used to roll up the filling ingredients, but this needs treating with some special care; it must be soft enough to roll, but not so gourmets that it tears apart in the process of rolling. I find a variety of wisdom intended to help me achieve this. Our friend Huong (owner of a little authentic restaurant in Hanoi French Quarter) suggests placing them in lightly wet cloth and then rubbing them with wet hands before use. We advise you dip one wrapper into the warm water for 2 seconds to soften and then lay it flat or sometimes we just pat them with our wet fingers. By this way, the wrapper is soft and easy to work with, and the water dries quickly. I try out both methods in the interests of fairness and see that you don’t need to test the softness of wrappers in boiling water. The patting method works much better, but it’s far easier to do as we do and only dunk the wrappers in cold water. I’d pat them in the cold water until they feel pliable. It is an easy way to roll the wrappers after a couple of goes, and wrappers are so cheap so it is okay if you make a few mistakes in the process of preparing.

Extras

We sometimes add roasted peanuts, which we like, we add a burst of both texture and salt to the rolls. Chilli is usually put to the dipping sauce, but they use it in the texture too.

Rolling

And here is the trickiest part of making fresh spring rolls; you do need a little practice before making perfect. We would like to suggest you “Not putting too much filling on the rice wrapper for the first time of rolling” Otherwise, it’s hard to seal the rolls. You start your rolls with a pile of noodles, but actually, it’s nicer to see some pink prawn and fresh herbs through the translucent rice wrapper. You can also do two layers of filling, folding the rice paper over one lot before wrapping the next. We usually fold uncovered sides inward and then roll the wrapper tightly, beginning at the end with the lettuce. So by this way, I think it is easier to manage it.

how to cook goi cuon - Vietnamese Fresh Spring Roll

How to cook goi cuon – Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rol

Dipping Sauces

There doesn’t seem to be one standard dipping sauce for summer rolls. Vietnamese people have different types of the dipping sauce. We make a classic sweet, sour and savoury number from sugar, water, fish sauce and cumquat juice, flavoured with Thai chilli and chopped garlic, and Stein’s is the same but without the water, and with added ginger. Brissenden adds rice vinegar and sliced carrots. I’m not keen on the vinegar, so I think that cumquat juice should be sour enough, and as I include shredded carrot in my fresh rolls, there’s no point having it here.

Dipping sauces Goi Cuon - Vietnamese Fresh Spring Roll

Dipping sauces Goi Cuon – Vietnamese Fresh Spring Roll

Both Tuan and Huong do something quite different. Luu’s sauce starts with fried chopped garlic and adds hoisin, vinegar, minced chilli sauce and water, garnished with crushed roasted peanuts, while gourmets is a mixture of hoisin, peanut butter, water, lime juice and soy sauce, stirred together until smooth. Both delicious, but I find them too cloying and heavy: I’m after something lighter and zingier to match the taste of the rolls themselves. A simpler mixture of lime juice, chilli, sugar and fish sauce fits the bill perfectly.


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