Vietnamese Summer Rolls and Heavenly Peanut Sauce

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I think the first time I ever had summer rolls with peanut sauce was at this little vegetarian cafe in Boulder, Colorado called “The Creative Vegetarian Cafe.” That place was responsible for introducing me to many new foods, including breakfast dosas, tempeh that actually tasted good, and last but not least, the summer roll. The combination of crisp, fresh vegetables in a soft rice wrapper and creamy rich peanut sauce was swoon-worthy; and being me once I tried it and figured out how good it was, I wanted to have it all the time. The only problem was, one just wasn’t enough. I could find them as snacks in the local health food store, but they were quite expensive- being almost $4 for one little roll. And, often the peanut sauce had wheat based soy sauce in it, making my favorite part of the whole experience off limits. So, I decided I needed to learn to make my own.

I was a little confused by the name, though. Some restaurants seemed to call them fresh spring rolls, and other called them summer rolls. But which were they? The consensus seems to be that spring rolls originated in China, and are always fried, while summer rolls developed in Vietnam or Thailand and are generally served fresh. After some time consulting vegetarian and vietnamese or Thai cookbooks, I figured out how to make my own. Happily, once you have the ingredients prepped, it doesn’t take that much time to make a batch. They keep reasonably well for a day or so, although with the right fillings they could last longer. And they are extremely portable- although packing the sauce takes a little planning.

Fillings can really vary depending on your individual preference, but my standard includes rice noodles, crisp lettuce, carrot, mint, and some kind of sauteed tofu. But honestly, it’s all about the sauce, isn’t it? “Summer rolls are normally dipped in either a simple sauce consisting of hoisin sauce, garlic, peanut butter, and water which are boiled until well blended or a combination of fish sauce, garlic, sugar, lime, and carrot.” (source: Wikipedia) Personally I like to make a peanut sauce, but if I have extra time, a sweet chili sauce or prepared plum sauce goes nicely as well.

tofuforroll.jpg zairyou2.jpg makingroll.jpg makingroll2.jpg

Here’s how I generally make my summer rolls…

I season pressed, sliced tofu sticks to taste. Usually I baste Chili garlic sauce on the tofu, but tonight I mixed wheat free teriyaki sauce by Edwards and Sons with my Chili Garlic Sauce. Then I sautee the tofu slices in a little oil in a frypan, adding salt or other seasonings if desired. You could substitute seafood or chicken if that is more to your taste.
freshroll.jpg I prepare all of my vegetables, cutting cucumbers, carrots, and green onions into matchsticks. (You can add anything though- I often add avocado slices, and today I used yellow pepper that I needed to use up from the farmer’s market.) Then I rinse and dry any greens, such as lettuce and fresh herbs (mint is mandatory for me, but you can use cilantro, fresh basil- or anything that inspires you). I also prepare Thai rice noodles by adding them to boiling water and turning off the heat. I think it takes about 3 minutes, but let them soften until no longer crunchy. Then I rinse them under cold water and let them drain. I lay all my filling ingredients out on plates for easy access, and prepare a wide bowl/ plate for softening the rice wrappers. I heat some hot water in a teapot and keep it close. Then I briefly soak each rice paper wrapper in the hot water, put them on a nice flat surface (some recipes suggest a damp towel, but either way is fine), pile the ingredients neatly at the bottom of the round rice sheet, roll it over once, tucking the veggies in, fold the sides like a burrito, creating an envelope, and finish rolling the package to make a little cylinder. I then place the prepared summer rolls carefully on a flat surface to dry NOT touching each other if possible (or they could stick together). They should dry and seal themselves shut. You then have beautiful little packages of flavor and freshness, that you can take just about anywhere.springroll21.jpg

You could put anything in them of course- at a yuppie deli in Chiba-shi, Japan they had ones with potato salad inside, prawns, smoked salmon and cream
cheese… even bits of beef or chicken! Of course you have to change the sauce to suit the filling, but that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?

If you’d like to see someone making one of these, and some professional tips for making them as a carry along snack, watch this:
An excellent instructional video showing how to make summer rolls

I like any sauce, but my personal favorite has to be the sauce below; it is the product of many comparison tests. It’s an interesting recipe because it doesn’t use high calorie, high fat coconut milk like many recipes do, but yet it still manages to be delightfully creamy and decadent. It’s all about caramelizing the onions… If you’re going to make spring rolls, you gotta make a sauce to go with them. And if peanuts aren’t your thing- sweet chili sauce is the next best thing. Enjoy… And remember, if you have sauce left over- you can use it in a killer Thai salad with rice noodles and veggies! I know it’s not summer yet… But any time of year is a good time to enjoy a crisp, delightful summer roll.

Thai Peanut Sauce
Ingredients
1 sliced small onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves crushed garlic
3/4 cup NATURAL peanut butter or 1 cup dry roasted salted peanuts
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
Directions
Saute onion and garlic in oil til tender. Cool. Place in blender,
add everything else, and blend carefully. Slowly and carefully
add enough boiling water to form a thick paste. (I like it about
the texture of slightly thinned peanut butter.)

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21 Responses to “Vietnamese Summer Rolls and Heavenly Peanut Sauce”

  1. Hi Sea,

    Summer rolls are definitely on my list of foods that I crave on a regular basis. I found a gluten free hoisin sauce recently and have been making the peanut sauce with it. But I will try your version, as it sounds equally delicious.

  2. Hey Yum:

    Man, these look great. Another tasty treat my celiac hubby misses. Where do you find the rice wrappers? An Asian food market?

    -Rachel

  3. Thank you, Rachel! :)
    You can find the rice wrappers in Asian markets, yuppie supermarkets, and health food stores- but you’ll probably get the best prices at an asian market. They are usually near the rice noodles… and in clear plastic bags. You do have to read the label carefully, but there are almost always lots of varieties made from just rice or rice mixed with tapioca starch. They are fun to play with, and great to bring to dinner parties. Enjoy!

    -Sea

  4. [...] Appetizers China- Lettuce Wraps with Tofu and Veggie Crunch Served with GF Hoisin sauce Thailand- Summer Rolls with peanut sauce OR sweet chili garlic sauce Japan- Edamame (fresh soybeans) [...]

  5. [...] In this world without gluten (wheat, barley, rye, etc.), eggs, cow dairy, soy, tomatoes, almonds, and other assorted foods, it sometimes feels like a miracle to find something I can still eat without modification. So I was really thrilled when my husband handed me a package of regular old rice paper wrappers in the store and declared them Sally-friendly. I realized I could make delicious fresh spring rolls (also known as summer rolls) in my kitchen at home. Three great blog posts (one at Book of Yum, one at Gluten-Free Bay, and one at Gluten Free Gobsmacked) convinced me that I, too, could be successful at making fresh spring rolls at home. Last night, I proceeded to go a little crazy. [...]

  6. [...] Menu: Monday: Book of Yum’s Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Heavenly Peanut Sauce, small Spinach [...]

  7. [...] Happy Valentine’s Day!- Thai (Captiva Island, Florida) Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce Coconut Rice Protein of family’s choice (not prepared by me, haha) for dessert? Grilled Fruit [...]

  8. [...] first day we were there, Thursday, was Valentines Day. I planned to make summer rolls with peanut sauce, coconut rice, and grilled fruit with a coconut peanut sauce from my favorite book, Peanut Butter [...]

  9. [...] Want another type of peanut sauce tofu? Try this Tofu Mushroom Peanut Sauce Recipe Only want an awesome Peanut sauce recipe? No Problem! Or how about Sweet Potato Peanut Soup? You can even try a Peanut Southern Style Green [...]

  10. [...] Sauce from http://www.bookofyum.com 1 sliced small onion 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/4 teaspoon cayenne 1 tablespoon GF soy sauce 1 [...]

  11. Yum. I make a version of these A LOT – with carrots, mint, cucumber, napa cabbage, and rice noodles – occasionally tofu too. My peanut sauce is a little simpler – just peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce (just salt for veggie), and a little sugar if you use natural pb – loosen with some water and whisk. I made these at a party last year and they went over really well. I usually end up with a bowl of leftover ingredients and I toss with some sauce for a light salad the next day.

  12. [...] How to make Spring/Summer Rolls and peanut sauce recipe Summer Rolls Vegan Lunchbox-Style [...]

  13. [...] or Vietnam Inspired Spring/Summer Rolls Instructions for summer roll and peanut sauce recipe here. Substitute sweet chili sauce if nut allergies are a concern. Wrap summer roll individually in [...]

  14. How many calories are in the sauce?

  15. Ana,
    I’m a home cook and don’t calculate calories. You could probably figure it to be slightly higher than the peanut butter if eaten straight, as the olive oil used in cooking the onions is one of the only calorie dense items.

    -Sea

  16. Vietnamese girl Says:

    My family never used peanut sauce or peanut butter in our dipping sauce. When I read this, I was surprise that other vietnamese people told you that. Also the technique is in wrapping the roll. Can’t have loose ends or bulkiness

  17. Vietnamese Girl,
    If you read the post it is clear that my experiences with summer or spring rolls are in versions that have filtered to the US. I make no claim that my recipe is authentic or even especially Vietnamese, although I give that title to the fresh summer/spring rolls themselves mostly to facilitate web searches. The peanut sauce is labeled “Thai” but is a fusion recipe… and tastes delicious. You might try something different- you might actually like it. In my vegetarian blog I am proud to come up with my own variations on a variety of international cuisines- while I like to know about the authentic tradition that the dish came from, I don’t feel confined to those traditions (many that are not vegetarian or gluten-free)

    -Sea

  18. [...] Thai Vegetarian Spring Rolls with almond butter [...]

  19. summer roll is my favorite food. it is not only delicious but also low in calories(about 35cal/roll). and you just need about 3 roll for your breast fast or lunch(105cal) this is a healthy food ever.

  20. [...] don’t know if you’ve noticed by now, but I have a huge weakness for peanut sauce. Nothing makes me happier than a fresh spring roll dipped in creamy, salty, sweet gingery peanut [...]

  21. [...] root). Use combinations! A critical sauce to have on hand, however, is peanut sauce. Here’s a link to a good recipe—honey and ginger are key [...]

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