Thursday, September 12, 2013

Spring Rolls

Back in the good old days (aka college), I used to cook a lot.

No, that's a lie.

I used to bake a lot, but sometimes I'd throw a savory recipe into the mix just for show.

These spring rolls have been my go-to recipe for appetizers since those days oh-so-long ago (ok, so I graduated from college five years ago, which feels like a lot longer ago than it actually probably is), and the most flattering part of this recipe is someone always wants to steal it from me.  And who am I to deny anyone any recipe having anything to do with peanut butter?  I mean, really.  That would just be rude.

These spring rolls are a meal unto themselves, and they're the perfect dish for San Francisco's Indian summer because avocados are in season (and on sale!), and they require absolutely no hot oven when the house needs to be kept as cool as possible.  This is an even better recipe when paired with a glass of crisp white wine or beer, both while making them and while eating them.

Everyone seems to have their own variation of this recipe, and that seems to be the best part: you can change it however you like (even, I suppose, without the peanut butter.  Which would just make me sad).

-Vietnamese Inspired Spring Rolls-

You will need:

  • 1 package rice wraps (found in the Asian foods section of your local Safeway or Whole Foods)
  • 1 bottle sriracha sauce (optional - this stuff is spicy and should be used sparingly unless you're a masochist.  Use your favorite hot sauce as a substitute if you can't find it or like your food a bit more on the mild side)
  • 1 jar creamy peanut butter
  • 1 bag loose leaf baby spinach
  • 1 bag pre-shredded white or red cabbage depending on taste preference (essential - if you don't buy pre-shredded you're adding a lot of unnecessary time to this recipe that's better spent drinking...err, I mean, cleaning house)
  • 1 bag grated carrots (again, make sure you buy them already grated for the same reason as the cabbage - I'm just trying to help you out here)
  • 1 bunch mint (or basil), rinsed
  • washed and trimmed romaine lettuce leaves
  • 2 ripe avocados, sliced lengthwise into tenths
  • hot tap water
  • baking dish or plate large enough to soak rice wraps in
  • plate for wrap prep
  • cooked rice noodles or spaghetti
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro
  • thinly cut strips of lightly-cooked firm tofu
  • 1 bag white bean sprouts

{step 1}  Fill your large, shallow dish halfway with hot tap water (as hot as you can stand to touch with your bare hands).

{step 2} Place one rice wrap in the water until thoroughly moistened and soft, then hold the wrap over the water and let the excess drip back into the dish.

{step 3} Lay the wrap flat on the prep plate.

{step 4}  Add the ingredients you've chosen into your wrap.  If you're adding noodles, start with those, though I personally think they're great without the noodles and take less prep time.  Then add little bits of cabbage, spinach, carrots, and three or four bean sprouts (if you really, really like veggies).

*These wraps are small, so remember to be quite conservative with the amount of ingredients you add or else they turn into a sloppy mess.*

{step 5} Now add one slice of avocado on top of your mini array of veggies, as well as a sprig of cilantro (if you must - but I personally find cilantro revolting).

{step 6} If you want these to be a single layer wrap, you're going to want to add the peanut butter (as much as you prefer) on top of your veggies, and then a tiny dash of the sriracha and mint to taste.  Then put the lettuce leaf on top.  However, these can get messy and hard to wrap, so you may want to double-up on the wrap (see below).  The choice is yours. 

{step 7} If you're doing a single wrap, fold one end tightly over your mound of veggies, then each side tightly over as well.  Finally, roll your newly created wrap up into the excess flat part of the rice sheet until all of it is neatly tucked into itself, and you're finished!  Just repeat until all the rice sheets are gone or you're tired of making them.

{step 8} If you're going for a double layer approach, you'll want to wrap up your veggies in step 6 with the avocado, lettuce leaf, and cilantro.  However, hold off on adding the mint, sriracha, and peanut butter just yet.

{step 9} Once you're all wrapped up, moisten a second wrap.  Lay it flat on the plate and put your first wrap on top.  

{step 10} Spread some peanut butter on top of the veggie wrap, add a very thin, pin-striped line of sririacha across the peanut butter, then neatly place two leaves of mint (or basil) on top.  

{step 11}  Stretch the top of the rice wrap over the roll as tightly as possible without ripping it, folding it like a burrito.  Then stuff three, or four, or five into your mouth.

Single Layer v. Dual Layer Approach: Why the difference?  

The single layer is less chewy and time consuming, but messier and falls apart easily.

The dual layer approach takes more time and is a bit chewier.  However, it is much sturdier and pleasing on the eye.  If you're planning on transporting these a long distance, then I suggest the dual layer approach.

No matter how you decide to make these and which ingredients you decide to add, I promise that people will love them.  Plus they're healthy (and vegan/gluten-free!) make sure you wash them down with something less healthy, like a big slice of coconut cake or a thai iced tea.  You know, just to balance everything out.

If you decide to add any new ingredients that turn out great, please let me know.  I'm always looking for ways to mix these up!


  1. I LOVE spring rolls so much, and am wondering why you have never made these for me? huh? Huh? Anyway, I saw and read this post last week, but due to uber-demanding work, I did not comment until now. I am definitely going to tell Peter to make these for me (we all know I'm helpless when it comes to the kitchen. Maybe if I drank I'd be more willing to conquer that beast, but sobriety makes it an impossible task).

    Thanks for the awesome recipe and beautiful pictures! Now I'm hungry!

    1. You're welcome! Photos are courtesy of the lovely Miss Zoe Maver. She also recommends a dipping sauce of some kind. Not soy sauce, maybe something Vietnamese and creamy?

    2. Mmmm, peanut sauce! Of course!! Sheesh, Leith. You need to pick up some peanut sauce from your local Asian market :D

    3. Such a good idea! Duh! Thanks!!

  2. Yum! I like to make my own peanut sauce with peanut butter, thai dragon peppers, tamari, and some oil.

    1. Oooh, that sounds easy and fun! I will have to do that because, yeah, these definitely need a sauce of some sort.

  3. I've always wanted to try spring rolls like these!!! They look delicious and yet it seems impossible to make them with my basic cooking skills. :D

    1. Trust me, if I can make them, you can make them! The prep can be a bit tedious, but everyone in my family makes them with success, so I know you can make them into a masterpiece! Thanks for reading!!