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Vietnamese Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 roll and about 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce)

Fresh summer rolls are one of my favorite dishes to prepare because they are (1) versatile based on what I have/are craving, (2) healthy, (3) so, so good, and (4) three words: PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE. Spring rolls are great, but peanut sauce* elevates them to AMAZING! This sauce is simply Phenomenal!!!

We like to think of the Vietnamese roll as an elegant example of fast food: a salad packed into an edible container, which results in something as beautiful to behold as it is practical to eat by hand. Better yet, the Vietnamese roll is a big win for the health-conscious because the roll is almost fat-free, and the sauce, while sporting a little peanut butter, is not highly caloric. One dipped bite yields an explosion of flavors and textures that are guaranteed to excite any palate.

Ingredients:

For the peanut sauce:

Rolls:

  • 4 ounces dried rice vermicelli noodles
  • 24 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 16 round rice paper wrappers
  • 1 bunch mint leaves
  • 16 butter or green leaf lettuce leaves
  • 1 cup finely shredded red cabbage (about 3 oz./ 85g)
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots (about 3 oz./ 85g)
  • 4 Persian cucumber, cut into matchsticks
  • 3 medium scallions, cut into slivers about 3 inches long
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro sprigs

Preparation:

  1. For the peanut sauce: Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. For the summer rolls: Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
  3. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp, turn off the heat and poach until bright pink and opaque, about 1½ minutes. Drain in a colander and run under very cold water until cool. Dry with paper towels and cut each shrimp in half horizontally (making them thinner). Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to roll.
  4. Fill a wide, shallow dish large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers with warm water. Arrange all of the filling ingredients within easy reach around a work surface. Lay down a lettuce leaf and place a arrange a few rice noodles, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, scallions, and a few cilantro leaves in the middle. Roll lettuce around the noodles and vegetables in a cigar shape and set aside, seam side down.
  5. Working with 1 wrapper at a time, submerge rice paper until it is soft and pliable, about 10 seconds (it will soften more as it sits). Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the work surface. Lay 3 shrimp halves in a row, cut side facing up, just above the center of the wrapper, leaving about 1 inch of space on each side. Place 1 mint leaf between each shrimp. Place the filled lettuce roll just below the shrimp.
  6. Fold the bottom half of the rice paper wrapper over the filling and roll until the shrimp and lettuce are secured. Then fold in the sides of the wrapper. Then roll the entire wrapper so it becomes sealed, like a burrito. Place the roll on a rimmed baking sheet and cover loosely with a lightly damp paper towel and plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and fillings. Leave a little space between each summer roll so they don’t stick together. If not serving immediately, keep the rolls covered with damp towels and plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Serve with the peanut sauce for dipping.

These fresh rolls work as a light dinner, a healthy lunch, and one very impressive appetizer. Have fun!