Vietnamese Noodle Rolls

Woman doth not live by plums alone – if she did, she wouldn’t still have a large bowl of plums taking up refrigerator space where she needs to put things from the grocery.  There are other foods…and there are potlucks.

I needed to bring a vegetarian or “dairy” (milk products only) dish to a potluck this week.  Naturally, I wanted Wow Factor, and low fat on the off chance I might have to bring some home – not very likely once you see them.  I have tried to make rice paper wrapped rolls before, and they always fell apart. Then I ate at a Thai restaurant where we ordered summer rolls. They were small and tightly wrapped, not the big floppy things I produced.  The trick is in the tight wrapping.  By the way, this is pretty much a no cooking recipe.

This recipe came from Sunset magazine. I was a little surprised at some of the ingredients – Granny Smith apples and French-fried onions? But they worked and were delicious.  I made a double recipe – 20 rolls or 40 halves on toothpicks.  This recipe is for 10 rolls. The trick to this recipe is to prepare all of the filling ingredients and lay them out in a row on your work surface.  Then it is kind of an assembly line process to put them together.

Vietnamese Noodle Rolls

3½ ounces thin dried rice noodles (also called rice vermicelli)
¼ English cucumber, unpeeled
½ large carrot, peeled (I might use a whole carrot. This seemed a little skimpy. At the end I was stretching the carrot to have some in each roll)
5 red lettuce leaves, torn in half crosswise (use only the upper part not the thick stem)
½ Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and very thinly sliced lengthwise
30 mint leaves
40 cilantro leaves
About 1/2 cup canned french-fried onions
Ten 8 1/2-in. rice-paper wrappers (bánh tráng)
Sweet and Spicy Sesame Sauce or your favorite peanut sauce (see recipe below)

Put noodles in a large bowl and cover with almost-boiling water. Let noodles sit until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Don’t leave them longer or they’ll get too soft.

Meanwhile, cut cucumber into 4-in. lengths and then into matchsticks. Grate carrot finely (the recipe called for carrot matchsticks, but that seemed too crunchy for me.)

Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Spread noodles out on a baking sheet lined with a kitchen/paper towel. Pat dry. Divide noodles into 2 long “logs,” then cut each log with scissors into 5 equal portions.

Set out all ingredients except the sesame sauce near a large work surface. Pour very hot tap water into a large shallow bowl such as a pie plate (I put the pie plate in the kitchen sink so it wasn’t too drippy). Submerge 1 rice-paper wrapper until moistened and softened slightly but not completely pliable (it will continue to soften as you work with it). The trick here is to dip it in the water, turn it over, and dip it again. That’s enough! Do them one at a time. Don’t try to be efficient and dip several of them. You will have a mess, and you will not get into the Zen of making nice noodle rolls. Also, unlike phyllo dough, which can be patched, broken rice papers don’t patch well. Your roll will fall apart (this us the voice of experience speaking).

Lay damp wrapper on work surface – I have large flexible plastic mats that I use – and put 1/2 lettuce leaf in center. Mound 1 portion of noodles on lettuce followed by about one-tenth of the cucumber, carrot, and apple slices; 3 mint leaves; 4 cilantro leaves; and a sprinkling of onions. Arrange ingredients into a rectangle about 4 in. long. Fold paper tightly over short ends of filling, then roll up tightly from the bottom. Repeat to make remaining rolls. Serve with sesame sauce.  This makes 10 rolls at less than one gram of fat/roll.

noodle roll whole

These are rolls on a plate waiting to be sliced.  I found that if you want to cut the rolls in half, you should let them dry for a few minutes until the wrapper is no longer slippery. This kind of firms them up.

noodle roll cut

This shows the inside of the rolls, which are very colorful. I put the toothpicks in before I cut them.

noodle roll platter

The platter itself included the dipping sauce below.  I thought it might have a little too much of a kick, but no one thought it was too spicy.  And you have to admit it all had that Wow.

Sweet and Spicy Sesame Sauce

3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
½ teaspoon red chile flakes
1 Tablespoon Asian (toasted) sesame oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
½ cup hot water

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.  You can make the sauce ahead (the noodle rolls should be eaten the day they are made. Chill airtight for up to 1 week. Makes about ¾ cup, with 1.6 grams of fat/tablespoon.


4 Responses to “Vietnamese Noodle Rolls”

  1. 1 Melissa November 30, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    If you are ever in the montreal area, you should try ZenAsia on the south shore in Ste. Lambert, or OZEN in Longueuil. They specialize in Spring rolls and they are to die for!
    By the way congratulations on your weight loss… I too have lost 100lbs- and trying to keep it off. No surgery either!

  2. 3 Happy New Year January 22, 2012 at 4:33 am

    Thanks for the writeup and tips on wetting the wrap! Tried this
    with some variation: instead of the apples, onions, mint and cilantro,
    I used spicy bean sprouts ( and some sauteed baby bella mushrooms.
    It was good! Used the juice from the mushrooms in the sauce. I was surprised how chewy the outside wrapper is. The ones I used had some tapioca in them.

    • 4 perpetualfeast January 23, 2012 at 11:22 pm

      This sounds delicious. The wraps are made out of tapioca, not actually rice flour. I guess that tapioca is stickier.

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I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

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