Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gỏi Cuốn - A Vietnamese Vegetarian Spring Roll (The Secret is in the Sauce!)

For my Second Project Food Blog Challenge, I am asked to step out of my comfort zone and investigate a new cuisine.  So, for a few days, I have been reading up on Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai foods.  Steeped in a history and culture rarely deeply explored in western life, it has been an eye opener.

These caught my eye for their visual appeal.  In Vietnam, the commonly seen (in the west) golden colored tortilla style wrapping is replaced with an opaque Rice Paper wrapper.  This let's all the colors of the veggies shine through, making a wonderful presentation.

Very simple to make, a bit bland in taste... Till you add the sauces.

But first, the spring roll.  Actually, this is more accurately called a salad or summer roll, as it is not fried.  It is meant to be a salad in an easily eaten form (no plate, no fork needed).  In Vietnamese, called a  gỏi cuốn, they are as common as American Freedom Fries.  Makes you ponder if we as a country would be as fat if in place of French fries, we ate a Summer Salad Roll...

But I digress....

Here's what I did...

1 cup Water
1/2 cup Rice
1 large Carrot, peeled and cut into julienne strips
1/2 Cucumber, again, peeled and julienned, avoiding the seeds
6 Rice Wrappers
2 cups fresh baby Spinach Leaves
1/4 cup Cilantro leaves chopped

  • Bring water to boil, stir in rice reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed.  Allow to cool completely.
  • Dip a rice wrapper in water for about 10 seconds to soften the rice paper (no longer than 10 seconds, it becomes too soft and tender to work with any longer)
  • add a layer of each of the veggies and top with a bit of rice in the center of the paper.  Tube shaped.
  • fold one end over the top of the veggies, fold the sides over and then roll to finish the roll.  the wet rice paper is self sealing.
  • Ready to eat!
But wait... The secret is in the sauces.  I made a scratch Hoisin sauce, and a HOT spicy soy sauce.  Scroll past the photos to see those recipes.

But first, here's a couple photos so you get an idea of what I am describing...

And now the sauces... Long time readers know that I am a heat guy.  Love the spices.  My wife is more of a flavor gal.  She loves the different spices, including sweet, salt, and just a bit of heat.  So, in the spirit of harmony (reunification if you want to explore the history of Vietnam symbolically in my choices), I made two distinctive Asian dipping sauces...

First, the heat -

1/2 cup Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
2 teaspoons Sesame Oil
2 diced dry Red Chilies
1 tsp Sugar

Whisk it all together.  The heat comes from the red chilies.  When you dice the chilies, if you carefully remove as many of the seeds as you can, the sauce will be less hot.  Also, as the sauce mellows, it gets hotter (like me).  So, make a day ahead of time, and it will curl your toes!  

This is meant to be hot, but a contrast is this easy recipe for a Hoisin sauce.  Commercial brands use sweet potatoes as a base.  I found an easy recipe, replacing the taters with peanut butter.  The taste was nearly identical.  This is a favorite dipping sauce for Jackie.  I didn't tell her about the peanut butter, she was VERY happy with the homemade, so no need to bother her with the details.

So, here's the sweet -

4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 tablespoon molasses 
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons sesame oil
20 drops hot sauce, habenero or jalepeno
1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

And mix and serve!

These were served as an appetizer for my Asian inspired meal.  I also made some Hong Kong style Chinese 5 Spice Cookies and an Okinawan Soba noodle dish... And those are posts for another time!



  1. Very well done! I have to do the same for my husband. I like the hot, and flavorful! I like the fun of adding what you like in the spring rolls too. Your whole meal looks perfect!

  2. These look like an awesome replacement for french fries! I vote for them! We do the 2 sauces around our house too. Jackie's version sounds awesome.

  3. This is one that I have been wanting to make. It looks like yours turned out well. I like the sauces but for the record, I don't think 20 drops of a habanero sauce can qualify as "sweet", ha ha.

    Did you have any problem with the wrappers tearing while rolling? They look so tender to me.

  4. These are fabulous. I made a bunch and brought them as an appetizer to a recent Christmas party.
    Half the party asked me for the recipe. Thanks for the great recipes.