Gỏi cuốn – Vietnamese Salad Rolls
Variously known as spring rolls, salad rolls, and summer rolls, you are likely familiar with this delicious Vietnamese appetizer made of shrimp, vermicelli noodles, and fresh herbs bundled up in a rice paper and dipped in that perfect dipping sauce, nước chấm. It is hard to beat, particularly in warm climates.
Salad rolls often also contain a slice of roast pork in the center, but I omitted that in order to make the dish simpler and pescatarian-compliant. In place of pork, I use a thick slice of cucumber. It gives good form and crunch to the roll, and frankly I don’t miss the pork at all.
But the biggest secret I have to share about spring rolls is that they are incredibly easy to make. There is a bit of prep to get all your ingredients ready, and then you can crank these out in no time.
They are also a great place to exercise your creative culinary muscle. After you’ve made them once, you’ll see how easy they are and how versatile they can be. You can essentially turn any salad you like into a finger food, and that is pretty special all by itself.
~24 medium shrimp, peeled, cooked, and sliced in half length-wise
⅓ lb. fine rice noodles, cooked and cooled
2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 4” long steaks about ¼” thick
Simple dipping sauce:
2 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp water
1 serrano pepper, sliced thin
Lime ginger dipping sauce:
1” ginger, minced
Juice from 1.5 limes
2.5 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
Making salad rolls is mostly a matter of preparing your mise en place. Having a few extra hands on deck to help with rolling doesn’t hurt either. The shrimp are the only cooked ingredient in this, so the directions are mostly about slicing.
The shrimp should be peeled, poached and cooled. You can then slice them in half lengthwise. You want the nice curled shrimp shape, just a bit thinner.
The cucumber should be peeled, cut into 4” long segments (or as long as your rolls) and then sliced lengthwise into ¼” thick steaks.
The rice noodles should be cooked and cooled–these provide a lot of the filling.
The herbs can be used whole, just wash them and have plenty ready.
To make the rolls, you will want a plate with a bit of water next to your work surface. Begin by submerging a rice paper in the plate of water briefly. Remove the rice paper to your work space and allow it to sit and hydrate until it becomes slightly tacky. Then it is ready to work with.
Begin filling the spring roll with a row of shrimp. On top of the shrimp place a cucumber steak, then your herbs, then rice noodles.
Now you are ready to roll it up. Start with the sides. Fold these over and in. The tacky rice paper will stick to itself and give you more control. Now grab the closer end, fold it over (not too tightly) and then roll it up. If your spring rolls are too long, cut them in half to serve.
I suggest you make both of these dipping sauces with your salad rolls. One is a simple diluted fish sauce which lets the salad rolls shine, the other is a bit punchier. I find myself alternating between them every time we eat salad rolls.
The simple dipping sauce is, well, simple. Just combine the fish sauce and water, drop in the thinly sliced serrano or thai chili, and allow to sit for 15 minutes to meld the flavors.
The lime ginger sauce is not complicated either. Combine all the ingredients, do your best to dissolve the sugar, and let this one sit for about 30 minutes before serving.
And that’s all there is to it. If you like these, try changing up the fillings. A backbone of rice noodles and herbs will make just about any filling delicious.