Better than Takeout Thai Food Part 1–Summer Rolls

I generally am not a huge takeout person. If I am not in my kitchen, making food, I generally like to go out and enjoy all the great aspects of restaurant dining – a server, a unique wine list, fun atmosphere, etc. However, there are some nights where you just can’t bring yourself to get dressed, let alone put on make-up and pretty yourself to be seen in public. These nights often coincide with a deep desire to sit on the couch and do nothing – funny how that works out.

On the rare occasions that these nights come around, I often default to my favorite kind of takeout food – Thai. I love all kinds of Thai food – curries, rice dishes, noodle dishes, salads, soups, everything. And while I like to think of myself as someone who ventures out and tries new things, I do find myself often ordering the exact same meal every time I do take out from my favorite Thai restaurant: Summer Rolls and Pad Thai.

I am not sure summer rolls are technically considered Thai. They are often on Thai restaurant menus, but I often see them referred to “Vietnamese Summer Rolls.” Whatever their origin, I don’t consider a Thai meal complete without some summer rolls.

These little rolls are just so balanced. Everything from their texture to their taste hits on all levels. They have a soft exterior, but you still get a nice crunch from the plethora of fresh veggies in them. You get subtle sweetness from the shrimp, mint and basil contrasted with spice from the hot peppers and cilantro. Plus, they are so pretty to look at!

I served my summer rolls with my recipe for spicy peanut sauce. While Hoisin sauce is probably the most traditional accompaniment for summer rolls, I really enjoy the creamy texture and spicy flavor of peanut sauce. Plus, if you make peanut sauce for the summer rolls, you can ensure there are extras to be served with the Pad Thai (recipe coming soon!).

Vietnamese Summer Rolls – Serves 4 as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 8 round rice paper wrappers (I used wrappers that were 8 1/2 inches in diameter and located in the international aisle of the supermarket)
  • 1/2 lb pre-cooked shrimp, sliced in half
  • 2 ounces rice stick noodles (vermicelli size)
  • 1/2 English cucumber, julienned
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1/2 bell pepper, julienned
  • 2 serrano peppers, julienned (seeds and membrane removed if you want it less spicy)
  • 1 cup mixed greens
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, ripped into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, leaves separated from stem
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, leaves separated from stem
  • Peanut Sauce

Directions

    1. Soak rice stick noodles in hot water for 15 – 20 minutes until soft and pliable.
    2. Prep veggies, shrimp and peanut sauce (if serving).
    3. Add hot water to a large sauté pan (or other bowl that is wide enough to fit rice paper). One at a time, place a rice paper in hot water for 10-15 seconds until soft and pliable. Working quickly, remove the rice paper and place three shrimp halves in the middle of the rice paper cut side up. In this order, add the: noodles, two-three piece of mint, basil and cilantro, serrano, carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers and finish with 1-2 large pieces of mixed greens.
    4. Wrap the summer roll like you would a burrito: 1) fold the bottom half of the rice paper wrapper over the filling 2) holding the whole thing firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in 3) pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire wrapper horizontally up from the bottom to the top 4) turn the roll so that that the same faces down and the row of shrimp faces up.
    5. If not serving immediately, place the summer rolls on a rimmed baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Make sure you leave room between summer rolls so they don’t stick to each other. If you are serving immediately, dip a sharp knife into hot water and cut on a diagonal down the middle.
    6. Repeat the entire process with remaining rice paper, replacing the water in the sauté pan whenever it gets cold.
    7. Serve with spicy peanut sauce and enjoy!
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