These fresh-tasting rolls can be cut in half and served with a nuoc cham dipping sauce; or cut them crosswise into 1-inch pieces for a playful take on sushi. They can be made up to 2 hours ahead.
Chef Spike Mendelsohn prefers to double the rice paper wrappers for easier rolling. He also recommends a coarse chop for the herbs, to maintain their freshness in the recipe.
Cho Saigon Market in Falls Church's Eden Center sells shredded pickled daikon, a mild Japanese variety of white radish. It is available in bulk in the produce section or in quart containers mixed with shredded carrot. Consider it a Vietnamese slaw that provides crunch and a nice balance of sweet and pungent.
It's easy to add shreds of smoked tofu, duck confit, crisped pork belly or grilled shrimp.
- For the dipping sauce
- 6 tablespoons vegetarian fish sauce
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce, such as Sriracha
- For the rolls
- 3 ounces dried rice vermicelli noodles (from a 12-ounce package)
- 8 6-inch-round rice paper wrappers, such as Red Rose brand
- 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
- 2 cups fresh bean sprouts
- 2 cups coarsely chopped mixed herbs, such as Thai basil, Vietnamese or regular mint and cilantro leaves
- 1 cup shredded pickled daikon, store-bought or homemade (see headnote)
- 1 cup shredded carrot
For the dipping sauce: Combine the fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, garlic and hot chili sauce in a medium bowl.
For the rolls: Boil a kettle of water. Place the noodles in a large bowl, then pour the just-boiled water over them just to cover. Let steep for 1 to 2 minutes, then drain. Let cool slightly, then pull the strands apart to keep them from sticking. Use a little of the dipping sauce to season the noodles.
Fill a wide shallow bowl with warm water. Place the rice paper rounds in the water for a few minutes until they soften, then transfer them to a plate and cover with a damp paper towel while you work. Layer 2 of them on a work surface, which will look translucent; blot with a paper towel if they are too wet.
Layer a small pile of each of the following ingredients in order, on top of each other in a 3-inch horizontal strip: vermicelli noodles, lettuce, bean sprouts, herbs, daikon radish and carrot. Lift the end of the paper closest to you and fold it over the pile of ingredients, tucking it under closely to the far side of the roll. Fold in the sides of the rest of the rice paper wrappers, then roll away from you until the spring roll is formed; it should be about 1 inch in diameter, fairly tightly rolled. Be careful not to overstuff the rolls, or they will tear.
Repeat with the remaining rice paper wrappers and ingredients.
To serve, cut the spring rolls in half on a slight diagonal and arrange on a plate, with the open ends facing up. Serve with a small bowl of the dipping sauce.
Tested by Spike Mendelsohn.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.