Mom's Vietnamese spring rolls remake. Some spring rolls might be bland but not these. Roasted red pork and pickled carrots and daikon make these rolls flavorful. This is one of my favorites.
But because they are little rolls of goodness, they are worth all the work. Eating them puts me in a state of bliss. There is the soft delicate chew of the rice paper and rice noodle; the savoriness of the pork; the sweet tender shrimp; the crunch of fresh carrot, lettuce, and cucumber; the herbaceousness of mint leaves; the sweet/salty/limy/garlicky dipping sauce. Did I tell you that it is a mouthful of bliss!?
Mom had a family of seven to feed, so making summer rolls was time well spent. I don't make them nearly as much as my mother used to, but once in a while I have a craving that cannot be overcome. That is when I get off my lazy-summer-roll-making-butt and whip some up.
My version contains a few modifications to the rolls Mom used to make. For one, I eliminated the rice noodles, since the rice paper used to wrap the summer roll in is essentially the same thing. Besides, the updated version has less carb!
Other changes add more flavor. Instead of boiled pork, there is marinated and roasted pork tenderloin. As for the shrimp, it is pan seared in sesame oil for a hint of nuttiness. Finally, Pickled Carrots and Daikon replaces fresh carrots for a more sophisticated flavor profile.
I realize that I just complained about how time-consuming it is to make summer rolls then turned around and made the process even longer. But you know me, I always like to put a twist on recipes. Besides, you can find traditional summer roll recipes in a plethora of other places. So if you are familiar with summer rolls and want to try a new variation, this version is definitely worth your time. The Pickled Carrots and Daikon as well as the dipping sauce (the same one used here) can be made ahead of time to make it easier on the day you prep the summer rolls.
Thank goodness for the convenience of modern packaged goods! They enable me take a couple of shortcuts. These products were not available or budget-friendly back in the day when my mom made summer rolls for the family. One item I take advantage of is the pre-sliced lettuce, which allows me to cut down on washing, drying, and slicing time. If you have fresh lettuce from the garden and want to use it, go right ahead! Another item I like to use is pre-split and deveined shrimp. Talk about making life a little easier! No more slicing through the shell and removing the vein. It's all done for me! I love the conveniences of modern life!
And don't forget, omitting the rice noodles not only reduces the starch content, it also saves a step!
The dipping sauce, also known as nước chắm, is a thing of beauty in itself. I use it in many of my Vietnamese dishes. It is complex in flavor with sweet, salty, tangy, savory, and spicy notes. This dipping sauce is an intoxicating mixture of chili garlic sauce, sugar, rice wine vinegar, water, garlic, lime juice, and carrots. As unladylike as it may seem, I love to slurp it up with a spoon. A confession: I don't always make it the same way. The one in the above photo does not have carrots. I opted for a sprinkling of red pepper flakes instead. Feel free to use one, both, or neither. It will still be fantastic!
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