Vietnamese rice paper rolls

Since I tried this dish during one long summer lunch time as a medical student, I have become addicted. There is nothing nicer than a chinese beer and fresh, crunchy, uncooked rice paper rolls to wash down all the worries and conflicted feelings, leaving you rejuvenated and ready to start again.


Like a lot of Vietnamese street food, this dish can be whatever you want it to be. My first love affair was with a vegetarian version of this, but recently I've been making them with king prawns and I am yet to find a combination that I don't like.

The essential ingredients in any rice paper roll are:
rice paper
rice vermicelli
fresh coriander

But beyond that - you can pick and choose.
these are some of my favourite combinations (add them to the above 3 ingredients)

1. scrambled egg
sautee shiitake mushrooms
carrot sticks
cucumber sticks
spring onion

2. Vegan version
ready to eat tofu
cucumber sticks
carrot sticks
red pepper sticks
crushed peanuts (or satay sauce)

3. prawn
shredded lettuce
cucumber sticks
spring onion
carrot sticks

4. bean sprouts
cucumber sticks
ready to eat tofu
sauce made up of 3 tbsp Hoisin sauce, 2 tbsp chilli sauce and 1 tbsp water

Rice paper rolls are always served with Nuoc Cham dipping sauce, it is really easy to make at home, the recipe is at the end of this post.

This is the recipe for the rolls I made a few days ago, it made about 14 large ones, enough for 4-6 people as an entree.

Ingredients (vegan)

for the rolls
14 rice paper sheets
a handful of dry rice vermicelli noodles
200g king prawns
1 carrot
1/2 cucumber
1/4 iceberg lettuce
3 spring onions
1 avocado
1 small bunch fresh coriander

for Nuoc Cham dipping sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice 
2 tbsp water
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 - 1 tsp icing sugar


First, cook the prawn quickly, in a little bit of groundnut oil, until they are pink and curled up. Drain and set aside to cool. When cool, slice each prawn lengthwise in half (so they retain the shape but are thinner)
Then, pour boiling water over the vermicelli and allow them to soak for about 2-3 minutes. Taste them, if cooked and a bit al dente they are perfect. Drain and add a touch of toasted sesame oil so they don't stick together in a clump. Set aside.

Cut carrots and cucumber into match-size sticks. Shred the lettuce finely. Chop the coriander, slice spring onions finely and cut avocado into thin slices too. Arrange all of the ingredients on a plate for easy access.

In a large bottom pan, pour boiling water and soak one rice paper sheet for about 1 minute. Scoop out with a wooden spoon and spread onto an absorbent kitchen towel. This is important as the rice paper wont stick to it, but the paper will soak up all the water.

Once you have your rice paper, soak another and fill the one you just drained.
Arrange 4 halves of the prawn first, then coriander, vermicelli, a few sticks of carrot, cucumber and spring onion and top off with avocado.
The filling should be arranged neatly, towards one end of the circular rice paper. For easy folding, fold over the edge and roll once, then fold over side edges (so that the filling doesn't fall out when you pick it up) and roll up the rest like a pancake. Seal the roll by dipping a finger into water and wetting the edge slightly.

Arrange the roll on the plate and repeat the process until all the filling and rolls are spent.

Nuoc Cham dipping sauce:


Basically, combine all the ingredients, mix well and voila!

Serve the rolls with the dipping sauce.


Bon appétit!

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