This is one of the most popular Vietnamese dishes around the world. It can be served as an appetizer, snack, or a meal. It is light on the stomach even if eaten as a full meal and has a refreshing taste thanks to the abundance of fresh vegetables that can be incorporated into the roll. It is also quite simple to make with many different variations. Other posts I’ve written on rice paper rolls can be found here, here and here.
An herb list is provided as a guideline of what you can put into a roll. The herbs are sold in Asian grocery stores in packages, and whatever is leftover after rolls are made can be used to make salads. My dad used to joke that meat is cheaper than vegetables in the U.S., which I’ve certainly found to be true at times.
This recipe makes 15 rolls: As an appetizer, can serve 4-6 people.
For the roll:
- 4 oz dry fine vermicelli (same size like angle hair)
- 1/2 lb boneless pork with skin or skinless: loin, shoulder, belly, etc.
- 1/2 lb medium shrimp (about 30 ind. shrimps), deveined with shells left on
- 2 Asian shallot or 1/4 small yellow onion
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 head of lettuce: Green, Red, Romaine, Butter, Iceberg, etc.
- 1 medium cucumber
- 2 cup bean sprouts
- 15 garlic chives, Chinese chives (optional if in season)
- 15 cilantro sprigs
- 5 basil sprigs
- 5 mint sprigs
- 5 perilla sprigs
- 15 (8 in.) round rice papers
The sauces (recipe below) to dip the rolls in can be made while cooking the pork and shrimp.
1. Wash and drain lettuce leaves and bean sprouts. Wash cucumber and cut it into half crosswise and thinly slice lengthwise. Strip herbs and cilantro of their leaves and their young stems (the soft, tender portions); wash these parts and drain well.
2. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add rice vermicelli, stir gently and bring it back to a boil again; make sure all of the vermicelli is immersed in the water. Cover and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then check if vermicelli is soft all the way through. If they are not soft enough, let them sit for a few more minutes. Then drain and rinse with cool water immediately. Drain again thoroughly. Set aside and stir occasionally to help the vermicelli fluff up.
3. Cut pork into 1 in. thick strips. In a medium saucepan, boil 1.5 cups of water with onion or shallot, garlic, and salt. Immerse pork in boiling water and turn the heat down to simmer. Cover for about 20 minutes until well done: no pink in the center. The water used to cook the pork should be put aside for later while the cooked pork is transferred to cold ice water for 10 minutes. Then remove the pork from the ice water and cut it into paper thin slices.
4. Shrimp must be deveined before cooking. The easy peel shrimp are sold with veins removed and shell cut open so they are ready to be used right away, but some brands sell shrimp with the shell intact. You need to use a small, pointed toothpick and poke through the middle of the shrimp underneath the vein and gently remove them. Bring the water that was used to cook the pork to a boil again. Add the shrimp and cook uncovered for about 3-5 minutes until the shrimps turn an opaque pink and start curling. Put the cooked shrimp into cold ice water for 5 minutes, and again set aside the broth they were cooked in for later. After removing the shrimp from the water, remove their shells and cut the shrimps into half lengthwise. If any veins remain, remove them.
5. Make the rolls:
Dip the rice paper into a bow of water (cool or warm). Put it on a plate or working surface for a few minutes. Repeat with a few more while waiting for the first one to soften enough to roll.
To assemble your roll, start at the bottom of the rice paper (the closest side to you). Arrange lettuce (with rib or not), cucumber, herb, beansprout, and vermicelli along the bottom of the rice paper sheet. Fold the bottom edge of the rice paper over the filling. Then fold in the left and the right to encase the filling. Arrange a few slices of pork, and keep rolling one more turn. Insert a garlic chive with one end poking out about 1/2 in. beyond the edge of the roll and roll one more turn. Place 3-4 shrimp halves with bright pink color side down to be seen through the roll. Then roll up to the end. Repeat with remaining rice papers and filling. Guests can also make their own rolls at the table. Rolls can be made up to 1-2 hours in advance and covered with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out . See the rolling in picture here.
Serve with dipping sauce (below are two options).
Peanut Hoisin Sauce (Tuong Dau Phong)
Note: People with peanut allergies can enjoy this sauce by omitting the peanut ingredients.
- 1 Tbs peanut or vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cups shrimp and pork stock (made by cooking the shrimp and pork above)
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp chili Sauce (optional)
- 1 Tbs tomato paste (optional)
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 2 Tbs peanut butter, crunchy or creamy
- 1/4 cup roasted, crushed peanut for garnish
- 1 small red Thai chili, seeded and thinly sliced
Heat oil in a small saucepan. Add garlic, tomato paste, and chili paste if used. Stir until garlic is slight golden brown and fragrant. Add broth, sugar, peanut butter and hoisin sauce and whisk until it all dissolves. Reduce the heat to simmer 2-3 more minutes until the sauce is thick and creamy. Divide into individual bowls and garnish with crushed peanut and chili slices.
Sweet and Sour Fish Sauce for Dipping (Nuoc Mam Cham)
- 1 garlic cloves, crushed or finely minced
- 4 Tbs sugar
- 2 Tbs lime or lemon juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 2 small red Thai chili, seeded: finely mince one and thinly slice one (omit if spicy is a matter)
- 1 Tbs finely shredded carrot (optional)
In a small bowl, add garlic, sugar, lime juice, and water. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in fish sauce and minced chili if used. Set aside. Before serving, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Divide into individual bowls and garnish with chili and carrot.