This Easy Vietnamese Spring Rolls Recipe is inspired by Vietnamese street food in northern Vietnam. Served alongside a spicy ginger dipping sauce these Vietnamese spring rolls make for a delicious lunch, or a healthy appetizer before dinner.
Walking the street of Hanoi in Vietnam, the food culture that envelopes daily life in one of the most chaotic cities in the world is impossible to miss. The sidewalks are meant not for walking, but for the countless street vendors who feed millions of people everyday.
Everything from pipping hot bowls of Phở to fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, and banh mi Vietnamese sandwiches can be found wandering the streets of Hanoi. So if you really want to understand Vietnamese food culture then the street food is where you start.
Vietnamese Food Culture
The culture of Vietnamese food is steeped in so much history, with street vendors creating recipes based on centuries of history and a delicate balances of the freshest seasonal spices and ingredients that could rival even Michelin restaurants — and in fact some of them do.
Just one trip to Vietnam is enough to make you become deeply intoxicated with this rich culture, and forever spoiled on what good Vietnamese food really tastes like
Long before I first stepped foot in Vietnam my husband lived there and the stories he would tell about the incredibly kind people, delicious street food, chaotic city streets, and beautiful landscapes was enough to draw me in and I knew that when I one day visited that Vietnam it would quickly become one of my favorite countries — and I was right.
Vietnam has a complex food culture due to its colonial history, first by the Chinese and then the French, which brought bread and wheat to Vietnam. Being an agricultural country with a large emphasis on rice, Vietnam developed a mixed food culture rooted in local ingredients, but influenced by the traditional French and Chinese cuisine.
The food culture in Vietnam, similarly to the way it is here in the United States, is also greatly influenced by geography, with Northern Vietnamese food culture focused on lighter, balanced dishes with a wide variety of ingredients, while the food culture in the more mountainous central region of Vietnam is known more for its spicy flavors.
And of course, like most of the great food cultures of the world, community is a large part of the Vietnamese food culture and the way they enjoy their food. Even when eating street food, you will find that hot bowls of Phở are served in ceramic bowls, and enjoyed while crouching on a tiny plastic stool or table next to friends and family. This community aspect to Vietnamese food is one of the beautiful parts of the culture, and something that I wish we could emulate more of here in the United States.
Chinese Spring Rolls vs. Vietnamese Spring Rolls
When you hear the words spring rolls, most people immediately think of Chinese spring rolls, which while believed to be where spring rolls originated, are actually very different from the fresh spring rolls made in Vietnam today.
The Vietnamese word for spring rolls are “Gua Cuon” and are made using a variety of rice based ingredients like rice paper wrappers for the roll and rice noodles for the center given the strong focus on rice in Vietnam. In contrast, Chinese spring rolls are made using a wheat based wrapper and are often filled with cabbage and other meat/veggies, before frying.
So while the names may be similar, the resulting spring rolls really couldn’t be more different.
How To Roll Spring Rolls – Easy Step By Step Guide
After watching countless women in the little hole-in-the-wall restaurants, or on the street making their unique spring roll recipe I felt like I finally had a good grasp on how this traditional Vietnamese fresh spring roll recipe was made. That was until I came home to the United States and tried rolling Vietnamese spring rolls for myself. The result was not quite as pretty as what I had envisioned in my mind.
Spring rolls take a little practice to really get used to, but please do not be discouraged if yours don’t turn out the very first time, they will get better. And I am hoping that between my directions below and your own stubbornness you will be able to figure it out, and will be making beautiful spring rolls of your own in no time.
The key to rolling spring rolls really is to work fast to keep the rice paper from sticking too much to the surface you are rolling them on. My best advice is to take a few different bowls and place all of your finely chopped ingredients into each bowl so that they are readily available, and organized for when you are assembling your spring rolls.
Lay your chopped vegetables, rice noodles, and protein choice in the bottom center of the rice paper wrapper and begin to fold up from the bottom.
While holding the bottom of the spring roll in place with one hand, fold the rice paper wrapper over from the right side.
Do the same on the left side until you have what looks like a three sided open envelope.
Pull the ingredients for your spring roll down and begin to roll the spring roll as tightly as you can. If your spring roll is too loose the ingredients will move around and it will be more difficult to eat/keep together.
Authentic Fresh Vietnamese Spring Roll Recipe + Spicy Ginger Dipping Sauce (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)
20 Rice Papers
3/4 lbs WIld Gulf Shrimp
2 cups Lettuce
2 cups Purple Cabbage
1/4 cup Mint
1/4 cup Cilantro
20 Basil Leaves
1 cup Vermicelli Noodles
Spicy Ginger Sauce Ingredients
3 tablespoons Fish Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 tablespoon Crushed Ginger
Heat a frying pan over medium heat, spray lightly with coconut oil, and add your de-veined/shelled shrimp to the pan.
Allow shrimp to cook for roughly 3 minutes on each side, or until the shrimp begins to turn pink. Remove the shrimp from the heat and place in a bowl to the side.
Next, fill a medium size saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Once the water in boiling, add roughly 1 cup of vermicelli noodles to the boiling water (you will typically have to break the noodles apart from the box they come in).
Allow the noodles to cook until the noodles soften (~3-4 minutes, they cook fast!) then remove from heat, drain, and set the noodles to the side in a small bowl.
Next, chop the lettuce, purple cabbage, carrot, mint, and cilantro into small pieces, and place in small bowls to make it easier for assembling the spring rolls.
Taking a medium size mixing bowl, fill in half way with water and place a rice paper into the water, submerging it entirely, and removing it after a few seconds.
How To Roll A Spring Roll
Place the wet rice paper on a plate and begin adding all of your prepared ingredients to the lower bottom half of the rice paper. When placing your ingredients on the rice paper you only a need a pinch of each ingredient. Try not to overfill your rice paper or you will have a hard time rolling.
Once your ingredients are laid on the paper and the rice paper has begun to feel sticky roll the rice paper up from the bottom, then in from the right, then in from the left, and then again from the bottom rolling all the way to the top. See the image above for a picture explanation.
Repeat process until all of your ingredients are gone and you have roughly 20 spring rolls.
Spicy Ginger Sauce Directions
To make the dipping sauce simply combine all the ingredients together in a small pinch bowl, and stir.
Serve with your fresh spring rolls, and pretend that you are sitting on a Vietnamese street, watching the city pass you by.