What Are Vietnamese Salad Rolls?

Eugene P.

Vietnamese salad rolls are a type of Asian food made by wrapping vegetables and ingredients such as rice noodles, cooked pork and shrimp in Vietnamese rice paper, a thin wrapper made from rice flour. The rice paper wrappers for Vietnamese salad rolls become translucent when soft, allowing the food inside the rolls to be clearly visible so inventive or dramatic presentations can be arranged. The rolls are not cooked after being stuffed and folded, and they generally are served at room temperature or chilled. When served, the rolls usually are placed in a small group and accompanied by some type of dipping sauce, such as a peanut and garlic sauce or a tamarind and bean paste sauce. In Vietnamese, this dish is known as goi cuon, but it also is known as a summer roll, fresh spring roll or crystal roll in some restaurants.

Rice noodles are used in the filling for Vietnamese salad rolls.
Rice noodles are used in the filling for Vietnamese salad rolls.

The most common ingredients included in Vietnamese salad rolls are carrots, lettuce, bean sprouts and cucumbers. Each of the vegetables is either chopped into smaller pieces or sliced to make long strips that fill the length of the roll. In addition to the vegetables, very thin rice noodles also are included. The noodles need to be pre-cooked before being placed in the rolls and are sometimes tossed, while still hot, with the vegetables and some sesame oil to warm the ingredients.

Vietnamese salad rolls are often served with a dipping sauce made from peanuts.
Vietnamese salad rolls are often served with a dipping sauce made from peanuts.

Meats, proteins or seafood are part of most Vietnamese salad rolls. This traditionally includes fried pork and prawns, although just about any meat can be used. Strips of fried firm tofu, shrimp, lobster, chicken and beef can all be found in various recipes. Whatever is used, the protein is cut to size so it will fit inside the roll, but it is not finely diced. Instead, thin strips or bite-size chunks are more common.

Assembling Vietnamese salad rolls starts with the rice paper wrapper. These are usually sold in flat, dry, cracker-like sheets that must be reconstituted in warm water for a few seconds. After they are moist, some recipes call for a layer of hoisin sauce or hot chili sauce to be spread in the center of the rice paper. The vegetables and rice noodles are placed in the center, followed by the meat and fresh herbs such as cilantro or basil. The rice paper is then folded and rolled until it forms a tight envelope around the ingredients, which will be visible if they are touching the paper.

Vietnamese salad rolls often are served with some type of dipping sauce. Thai peanut sauce, which is a mixture of garlic, peanuts and hoisin sauce, is one option. A more robust soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger sauce also can be used. A small amount of chili paste can be served on the side so the heat of the sauces or the Vietnamese salad rolls can be adjusted according to taste.

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