Summer rolls may be the perfect summer food – ironic, given the name.  I had a craving for these yesterday, and luckily most of the ingredients were already in my pantry. My kind neighbor gave me a huge basil plant, so I was set to go there, but I did have to stop at the store for the napa cabbage, mint and cilantro. The fresh herbs really make the flavor, so don’t skip them.

Be very careful with the rice paper rounds – they crack easily when dry. If you manipulate them just right, they roll together quite easily. I admit, I cheated and purchased peanut sauce – but it wasn’t as good as this homemade version. If you are sure you cannot live without protein, add a few steamed shrimp to each roll.

 For peanut sauce

  • 3 tbsp. minced onion
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp. creamy peanut butter (natural doesn’t work so well)
  • 1 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar

For the  summer rolls

  • Approximately 1 oz. of bean thread noodles (cellophane noodles), you could also use rice stick noodles
  • 1 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 4 (8-inch) rice-paper rounds, plus additional in case some tear
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced Napa cabbage
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup coarsely shredded carrot

Make the sauce:
Cook onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes in oil in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until pale golden, about 4 minutes. Whisk in remaining sauce ingredients. Simmer, whisking, 1 minute, then cool.

Make the summer rolls:
Cover noodles with boiling-hot water and soak 15 minutes, then drain well. Pat dry between paper towels and toss with vinegar and salt to taste. Fill a shallow pie pan or baking pan with warm water and soak 1 rice-paper round until pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute, then transfer to a plastic cutting board. Spread 1 to 2 tbsp. of peanut sauce over the rice paper wrapper and top with one fourth each of mint, basil, cabbage, and noodles. Roll up rice paper tightly around filling and, after rolling halfway, arrange one fourth of cilantro and carrot along crease. Then fold in sides and continue rolling. Transfer it to a plate and cover with dampened paper towels. Continue to roll 3 additional rolls.

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