Monday, February 8, 2010

A Little Taste Of Spring (Rolls)

I was really craving some fresh vegetables after having lots of heavier "winter" foods like chili and soups and things like that, so when I saw this guy making spring rolls filled with lots of fresh vegetables as an idea for a simple party appetizer, I knew I had to give it a shot. The most intimidating part of the whole thing was the wrappers. I am terrible at wrapping a gift and when it comes to making stuffed grape leaves, the rest of my family handles the actual "rolling" step. I am just not oriented in that way. I remembered the oft repeated mantra from school "feel the fear and do it anyway", so I purchased the ingredients and dove it.

The wrap for this spring roll is called "Spring Rolls Skin" on the package and is found in the Asian section of my regular grocery store. They are basically thin noodles that are the diameter of a tortilla shell, but nearly transparent. They are made from rice, tapioca and salt, so they seem fairly benign.

"Spring Rolls Skin"
The packaging for these skins contained no instructions, but the guy on TV prepared them by slipping them into a large skillet of boiling water while holding on to a little sliver of the side of the skin for just a second (I found that to be rather hazardous, as David and I both burned our fingers while attempting this. A pair of large tongs were safer). Immediately after removing from the pan of water, place the skin on a large plate or cutting board and unfold any folded or wrinkled parts. Only prep each skin as you fill them. Don't try to prep several skins at once, since they will stick together and/or dry out before you can get them filled and rolled. Update: since first posting this, I've started using really hot tap water rather than boiling water. It saves me from potential burns (yes, I am a tad clumsy), and it also prevents the skins from getting too soft, too fast. I like this method MUCH better!

For filling, I used spinach leaves, finely cut purple cabbage, julianned red peppers and carrots, sliced green onion, diced water chestnuts and sliced mushrooms (all raw) because I wanted to have a variety of colors and textures, and the variety of nutrients that come with that. You could use whatever filling you like, just make sure that it is not anything that would become juicy, since the rolls will leak and get soggy. Some other filling suggestions are: chopped hard boiled egg, finely chopped chicken or beef, toasted sesame seeds, bamboo shoots, shredded zucchini. I made sure that all of my veggies were as dry as possible.

To roll these spring rolls, I assembled the filling in a little row in approximately the lower third of the circle of the skin, folding the bottom side over the row then over lapping each side (forming a little pocket), and then simply rolled the pocket of filling as tightly as I could, until the roll was completely wrapped, the same way you might wrap a burrito. The skin is fairly tough and can take a little pulling and stretching. Because the skin is a noodle, it's starchiness allows it to stick together once it is rolled. I then cut the roll at an angle so that the colorful filling was showing (I am all about the visual presentation of the food).

I made a dipping sauce (or really a dressing, since I think the insides would fall out if you attempted to "dip" these) out of some rice wine vinegar, lime juice, chili oil, Chinese mustard, a little fresh ginger, minced fresh garlic and some low-sodium soy sauce.

I think these turned out pretty well. Sure, it is a little labor-intensive, but no more so than "taco night". I made about a dozen of these and took them to a little Super Bowl party where they were a hit. Give it a try. I'd love to hear your take on these.


  1. I love this recipe! I would love to try those "skins" make them sounds easier than I thought. This is my kind of meal, I am all about the veggie and the crunch! Can't wait to check out the rest of your blog! :)

  2. Avocado is a great addition to these as well. I've been making these for about 6 months now. Family loves them....altho I do get exasperated with the prep.

  3. YES! Avocado IS great with them! As for the frustratingly difficult-to-handle noodle/wrapper, my husband found some how-to videos on YouTube that were SUPER-helpful. Seeing someone put one together successfully offers MUCH benefit!