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Fresh Spring Rolls

(recipe, Moosewood Collective)


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Introduction

These little Vietnamese classics are crisp, coolly refreshing, and very pretty — the colors of the filling shine through the translucent wrappers.

Ingredients

    Rolls
    1. 3 oz. rice vermicelli
    2. 2 to 3 cups lettuce, shredded
    3. 1 cup scallions, minced
    4. 1 cup carrots, peeled and shredded
    5. 1 cup red bell peppers, thinly sliced
    6. 24 medium-sized cooked shrimp (about 12 ounces), or 1¾ cups tofu strips (about 6 ounces)
    7. ½ cup fresh basil and/or cilantro, chopped
    8. ¼ cup toasted peanuts, chopped (optional)
    9. 12 rice-paper discs (see Note), each 8 to 10 inches in diameter
    Dipping sauce
    1. Hoisin sauce, thinned with a little water, or a combination of:
    2. 1½ Tbsp. brown sugar
    3. ¼ cup soy sauce
    4. 2 Tbsp. rice-wine vinegar or lime juice

    Steps

    1. Place the rice vermicelli in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water, and set aside for 10 to 12 minutes, until soft. Drain well.
    2. Assemble all of the filling ingredients, then dampen a clean dishcloth and lay it flat on a work surface.
    3. Fill a large bowl with hot water. Holding a fragile rice-paper disc by the edge, gently lower one side of it into the hot water; it will soften as it absorbs water. Slowly turn the disc in the water until it has completely softened, taking care not to force it or it may crack. Place the disc on the damp towel and flatten it out (see Note).
    4. Using about 3 tablespoons of noodles, make a small bed of rice vermicelli just below the center of the disc. Top the noodles with 1 or 2 tablespoons of lettuce, a pinch of scallions, a sprinkling of carrots, 1 or 2 bell-pepper strips, and finally either 2 shrimp or a few tofu strips. Sprinkle on some basil and/or cilantro and chopped peanuts, if desired.
    5. Fold the two side edges of the disc over the filling to form a rectangular shape with curved ends. Roll up from the bottom to make a neat little package. Place, seam side down, on a platter.
    6. Soften and fill each of the remaining rice-paper discs, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until ready to serve.
    7. Serve with either, or both, of the two dipping sauces.

    Note

    To soften several discs of rice paper before beginning to fill them, soften each one individually and arrange on the towel side by side; don't stack them, because they will stick together. Culinate editor's notes: Other potential filling ingredients include fresh mint leaves and long, thin matchstick slices of cucumber. If you've got leftover marinated carrots and daikon from making Banh Mi, use them in place of the carrots and peppers called for here.