Vietnamese summer rolls recipe: How to make summer rolls

The heat of summer makes you crave food that's light and fresh, rather than hot and heavy. Our Vietnamese summer roll recipe is here to scratch that itch. It's cheap, it's simple, it's healthy, and it's remarkably easy!

Vietnamese summer rolls are easy to make, fresh, and healthy.
Vietnamese summer rolls are easy to make, fresh, and healthy.  © imago/Panthermedia

Is there anything better than a cool, fresh summer roll when you're settling in for a snack in the warm glow of the summer sun? Slightly sticky on the outside with a popping freshness on the inside, a good summer roll is one of the easiest things to make and one of the best snacks you'll ever have.

If you're a bit of a foodie, TAG24 is here with the best recipes and cooking guides on the internet. With this summer roll recipe, we'll show you how to make an easy, delicious, and authentic Vietnamese summer roll. Tuck in!

What are summer rolls?

Summer rolls are a mainstay of Vietnamese cuisine, acting as a fresh and endlessly appetizing snack or meal perfect for the heat of a summer's day. Wrapped in a thin layer of sticky rice paper, summer rolls are usually made up of a variety of thinly chopped vegetables and herbs, and often contain shrimp.

When traveling through Vietnam, these beautiful fresh rolls take on a whole new meaning. It's common to find summer rolls on the menu of a Vietnamese restaurant in the West, but there is something special about the freshness and simplicity of what they serve on the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

To answer a question like "What are summer rolls" seems a simple task, but it's actually a little complicated. What you're going to get in New York City or Berlin is vastly different because nothing compares to the fresh ingredients you'll get on Hạ Long Bay.

Preparing summer rolls is about achieving what you want and making something delicious. The basics are all there: fresh ingredients wrapped in rice paper. What you do with them, though, is up to you. Perhaps that's the secret beauty of the summer roll?

How to make authentic Vietnamese summer rolls

You don't need any special equipment to make summer rolls. You need little more than a way to dampen your sheets of rice paper. Preparing summer rolls is a fun activity to undertake with the family, too, and shouldn't be overlooked as something your kids can help you with (though you should probably do the chopping yourself, of course).

Here's the equipment you'll need to make summer rolls:

  • A very sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Wide plate with a lip, to fill with water
  • 2 pots

Most people will have all the equipment needed to make summer rolls. It's a simple and easy recipe, after all.

We'll keep this Vietnamese summer roll recipe as simple as possible.
We'll keep this Vietnamese summer roll recipe as simple as possible.  © Unsplash/Alexander Sinn

Summer rolls recipe | Ingredients

The thing about summer rolls is that you can put in pretty much whatever you want, as long as it is fresh and matches the flavor profile you're going for. We're staying simple, with all the most basic ingredients, so there isn't going to be anything hip here (in other words, no avocado).

Here are the ingredients you'll need for summer rolls:

  • Shrimp
  • Cucumber
  • Carrot
  • Radish
  • Lettuce
  • Mint
  • Scallion
  • Coriander
  • Vermicelli rice noodles
  • Rice paper wrappers

It's important to note that you don't want to use cellophane or mungo bean noodles in your spring roll. This is a common mistake that causes the summer rolls to adopt a chewy and stringy texture, making the whole experience messy and unpleasant.

On the proportions: We haven't included proportions, because they entirely depend on how much you stuff into each summer roll and how many rolls you make. Think about how much you want, and purchase your ingredients based on this.

Summer rolls recipe | Instructions

Making summer rolls is a simple and easy process, but one that you'll need practice with. Dealing with dampened rice paper can be a tricky skill to master, and getting these little bundles of joy wrapped properly can be difficult for beginners. We'll describe how to do it, but don't be surprised if you stuff up a few when you first start making them.

Here's how to make Vietnamese summer rolls

Step 1: Start by preparing the bits you're going to cook. Fill your two pots with water and bring them to the boil, seasoning both with salt.

Step 2: Once the water is at a rolling boil, prepare two separate ice baths. To do this, fill two bowls with cold water and ice. Make sure they are very cold before you proceed.

Step 3: Blanch your noodles in the hot water, cooking for 2–3 minutes or until tender and al dente. Be very careful not to overcook them as they will go mushy and nasty. Once they are done, immediately drain out the water and dump your noodles in one of the ice baths.

Step 4: Meanwhile, do exactly the same thing to your shrimp. Cook for 1–2 minutes at a rolling boil and, once cooked through, dump the water and chuck your shrimp into the second ice bath.

Step 5: Grab your knife and julienne all of your vegetables so they resemble thin matchsticks. Roughly chop your herbs and scallions.

Step 6: Now it's time to assemble your masterpiece. Drain the ice baths and pat the noodles dry. After drying off the shrimp, butterfly them and season with a little bit of salt.

Step 7: Get a wide bowl or plate and fill with a little bit of tepid water (not hot but not cold). Dip your rice paper briefly into this water, completely submerging for no more than a couple of seconds. You need to do this one at a time or they will stick together.

Step 8: Take the rice paper out of the water and place it on a plate. Assemble your filling inside and roll it up. When rolling, you want to first fold it in where the two ends of your rolls will be. After that, fold over the lengthy side and roll tightly, making sure that everything is tucked in.

It is incredibly difficult to explain how to roll summer rolls in writing, so we'll leave it to the YouTube experts. Here's a great video:

Vegetarian summer rolls recipe

To make these easy summer rolls vegetarian, simply remove the shrimp and either replace with tofu (preferably marinated in something) or leave them as-is. If you want to add some tofu, chuck it in a soy marinade and fry it beforehand in some vegetable or peanut oil, getting it nice and crispy.

You want some textual variety in your summer rolls, and uncooked tofu will simply create a mush that won't taste particularly good and will have a pretty nasty mouth-feel. Keep in mind as well that many dipping sources will have animal products. Fish sauce and even things like honey originate from animals, so it's best to make your sauce from scratch just to be safe.

Vegan summer rolls recipe

It almost goes without saying that, with the nature of this recipe, a vegetarian summer roll will automatically make it vegan as well. There are no animal products being used here, and barely any cooking, so it is unlikely that what you're making will be non-vegan.

Be careful with the dipping sauce, though, because many popular summer roll dipping sauces will contain animal products such as fish sauce. Again, this is easily remedied by choosing a type of sauce which simply doesn't contain anything you can't eat. Make your own sauce and control what's included!

You should always serve summer rolls with a yummy dipping sauce!
You should always serve summer rolls with a yummy dipping sauce!  © IMAGO/YAY Images

What to serve with summer rolls

Summer rolls should be served with a dipping sauce of your choosing. There are three main sauces that are traditionally served with these little bundles of delight, each of which add something a bit different to the dish. Keep in mind, though, that they're all very easy and straightforward, so you can also feel free to serve all three together for a bit of variety.

Here are the three main summer roll sauces:

  • Nuoc Cham: A simple dipping sauce made from fish sauce, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, garlic, chili, sugar, and water.
  • Hoisin: You can buy hoisin in most supermarkets, but it's best not to serve it straight. Instead, mix it with some sugar, water, lime juice, and chopped peanuts.
  • Peanut sauce: Very popular in the West, peanut sauce is a rich complement to the freshness of the summer rolls. We describe how to make it below.

There's no point keeping things boring. Garnish your summer rolls with some julienned chili, some scallions and coriander, and maybe even some pickled cabbage if that's your vibe.

Peanut sauce recipe for summer rolls

Peanut sauce is something that goes beautifully with a nice, fresh summer roll. The richness and nuttiness adds an element you won't get from the rolls themselves. With a little bit of spice, this is an incredible option if you're looking to make your summer rolls a little fancier.

Peanut sauce recipe | Ingredients

  • Crunchy peanut butter, 1/2 cup
  • Soy sauce, 1 tbsp
  • Honey, 1 tbsp
  • Toasted sesame seeds, 1 tbsp
  • Sesame oil, 1 tsp
  • Rice vinegar, 1 tbsp
  • 1 clove of garlic (crushed)
  • Water (as much as you need to get the right texture)

Peanut sauce recipe | Instructions

It's very easy to make a delicious peanut sauce. Simply combine all the ingredients listed in a small pot and heat up while slowly mixing. You want to have pre-toasted the sesame seeds, and you want to mix until everything has melted together in a creamy sauce (with chunks, of course).

Making a good peanut sauce for summer rolls is about getting the ratios right. Taste as you go, adjust the seasoning, and mix as needed.

Thai summer rolls and Vietnamese summer rolls are different!

A summer roll is a unique Vietnamese dish, and not something you usually find in Thai cuisine. When people refer to Thai summer rolls, they're usually referring to the iconic spring rolls that have become synonymous with Thai food in the West. Summer rolls are more similar to Thai shrimp rolls, rather than spring rolls (and Vietnam also has its own unique spring rolls).

While all of the above consist of various ingredients wrapped in rice paper, the key difference between a spring roll and a summer roll is how they are prepared. The former are deep fried in oil, creating a crispy, delicious and highly unhealthy snack. In contrast, summer rolls are not cooked (though they may contain cooked ingredients) and are very healthy.

Ultimately, though, it's all about the flavor. Spring rolls are great with a curry, but summer rolls are special because they offer that fresh pop of flavor we all crave on a hot summer's day – hence their name!

Cover photo: imago/Panthermedia

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