The first stop in Vietnam was Hanoi. I hadn’t tried a huge amount of Vietnamese food before but despite that, whichever restaurant we were headed to, I already knew what to order. Fresh spring rolls and a big bowl of Phở Ga: I was not to be disappointed. Just off beer corner (famed for the cheapest beer in the world at just 16 cents a glass), deep in ‘Old Town’ we were led to a quaint restaurant named the Little Hanoi. My friend Claire and I ordered some fresh spring rolls to share and each a bowl of scrummy noodle soup. One bottle of Tiger later and our food arrived; a platter of interesting ingredients to DIY your own rolls!
Rice noodles, nettle leaves, bell pepper, various types of salad and finely sliced spring onion were wrapped into the delicate pastry and dipped in rich peanut sauce. It was the perfect starter so a lovely first meal in Vietnam. I carried on trying fresh spring rolls throughout Vietnam, my favourite containing large prawns, always accompanied by satay dip. This is my own vegetarian (well one had prawns!) version with the best ingredients found easily in the UK including courgette, spring onion, leaves, peppers and vermicelli style rice noodles.
- 1 pack (usually 8) roll rice papers
- 1 nest of dried thin rice noodles
- Small bowl crushed salted peanuts
- 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, thin batons
- 1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
- 3 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 1 small bunch of mint
- 1/4 fennel bulb, finely sliced
For the dipping sauce:
- 1 tbsp tahini paste
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp thick honey
- 1tsp mirin
For the sauce:
Quite simply throw all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk lots! If it’s too thick, add a teaspoon of boiling/hot water at a time to loosen.
For the rolls:
I found the wrapping and folding process is easiest on a clean wooden chopping board. So first to prepare rice papers, one at a time, according to instructions on the packet. Generally this involves carefully submerging a paper for about 20 seconds until pliable but not ripping and tearing. Next, carefully lift them from the water and stretch out the rehydrated rice wrapper on the board.
Now go wild with all the finely sliced veggies but be careful not to over fill. You can gauge the fill much like a fajita or taco. I like a colourful combination, with the prettiest veggies at the bottom (first thing you put in) as these will be most clearly seen through the translucent paper.
Once filled, roll it up! I usually start by folding in the sides then rolling up from the bottom, pressing the filling in with the opposing hand. and start rolling from the bottom making sure you hold the filling tightly with your other hand. It’s sooooooooo tricky, but so worth it to get pretty little bundles of tasty goodness like these!
Serve up with the sauce for dipping! I like the leave them uncut when I serve them, so people can experience the fillings after they take a bite.