Cold Dinners, Take Three: Vietnamese Fresh Rolls

by moderndomestic on July 21, 2009

Fresh rolls

Sigh. At least they look pretty.

I love fresh rolls. Whenever I go to an Asian restaurant I eagerly scan the menu and order them as often as possible. And, after a suggestion from Elpis and Justice, they seemed like a natural project for July’s cooking project (recipes that won’t heat up your kitchen).

At least, it seemed like a perfect fit before I actually ate them.

Whenever I’ve had fresh rolls before, I’ve enjoyed the synergy between the crisp greens, soft noodles, sweet shrimp, and savory dipping sauce. And the recipe I ended up choosing seemed to promise the same culinary experience –  vegetables, rice noodles, and shrimp wrapped up in soft rice paper wrapper. I altered the recipe slightly – using pre-cooked shrimp and soaking the noodles in hot water I heated up in the microwave, to make the recipe truly no-cook.

But there was something horribly off about these spring rolls. Some of this was my fault – I used too much cilantro, which I always end up doing because I can only buy cilantro in huge bunches that I always feel pressured to use up before it goes bad. Consequently, the spring rolls were heavy on the cilantro and had a soapy, unpleasant flavor.

But the other problem, which was entirely out my control, was the rice paper wrappers. The wrappers had a strange, chemical flavor and acrid smell that was incredibly off-putting. I don’t know if there was something wrong with the wrappers, or if there’s something horribly wrong with DC’s tap water – or a combination of the two. But whatever it was, I ended up throwing most of the fresh rolls away.

So it’s strike two for no-cook meals. July can’t end soon enough.

Given my issues with these spring rolls, I’m not even going to try to put together a recipe for you. But if you would like to try where I have failed, you can find the recipe I used here. Epicurious also has a recipe for mango shrimp summer rolls that looks worth trying. If you dare.

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July No-Cook Project, Take Four: Mint Chocolate Ice Box Cake « ModernDomestic
July 29, 2009 at 6:57 am

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca July 22, 2009 at 9:02 am

Spring rolls are one of my favorite appetizers too. I understand the cilantro dilemma. It is why I would like to grow an herb garden, but I am so good at killing herbs. But soapy? and the rice paper? what a shame. Were they a Whole Foods purchase? I’ll have to avoid.

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moderndomestic July 23, 2009 at 1:51 pm

They were a Whole Foods purchase – and one made specially for the occasion.

I wonder why you can’t buy cilantro in more modest packages. Who ever uses an entire bunch of cilantro?

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Kayanna July 22, 2009 at 6:50 pm

I’ve never had an acrid flavor from the spring roll wrappers I’ve used – even ones that were kind of old. huh. wonder what it was.

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moderndomestic July 23, 2009 at 1:50 pm

I don’t know what the problem was, but it was nasty. I tasted the first one and thought there was something “off,” but it took me until the second to pinpoint what was wrong.

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Nonna July 26, 2009 at 8:00 pm

But they look so tasty!

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Val Lumby July 29, 2009 at 11:26 am

Hi Modern!
Do you read Cook’s IIlustrated? I have had a subscription since 2004, but unfortunately their recipe for Spring Rolls (January 2002) ran before I subscribed. You can, however, join online, which provides access to 16 years of magazine reicpes. Cook’s Illustrated demystifies and streamlines a wonderful array of dishes and describes in detail the process their chefs go through to arrive at their final recipe. Their failures, in particular, are enlightening.
I just thought you might like to know!
Keep experimenting! I find your blog very inspring!
Val Lumby

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Springroll lover November 15, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Your springroll wrappers were rancid. It happens when the oil content in the rice flour goes bad. I had this problem the other day. It was heartbreaking. After all the work of preparing all my ingredients, simmering and deveining/shelling my shrimp,etc. I reconstituted my wrappers and they smelled like paint! I ate one roll, my kids ate one, then everyone disappeared from the table. Usually, we wolf these things down. Next time I will pay the premium price $4.99 and get the Japanese Youka wrappers from Marukai. They were absolutely delicious.

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