Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Goi Cuon)

Main Dishes, Recipes

Gỏi cuốn, often translated as spring rolls, summer rolls, or salad rolls, are handheld rice paper wraps filled with vegetables, herbs, and goodies. Martin particularly enjoys nem nuong cuon a la Brodard (we get at least a dozen every time we visit the OC) but I don’t discriminate – I love ALL goi cuon with just about any filling. Prepackaged or DIY, spring rolls are the perfect summer food since they are light, refreshing, and easily customizable. We recently came into some fresh cucumbers and perilla leaves from a friend’s garden, so a fresh batch of goi cuon for dinner is in order.

Goi cuon (spring rolls)

Goi cuon (spring rolls)

I’ll be honest, my rolls at home are often very simple with minimal filling — for no reason other than I’m too lazy to purchase a variety of vegetables and be held responsible for using them before they go bad. Traditional goi cuon are often filled with boiled shrimp, pork slices, lettuce, vermicelli rice noodles (bún), and mint. Optional add-ins include julienned cucumber, grated carrots, and bean sprouts. As we mentioned earlier, some places roll up strips of grilled pork patties called nem nuong and Brodard in particular substitutes crispy fried wonton & scallion rolls for the vermicelli. The sauces vary as well, from fish sauce based to peanut butter & hoisin.

The Fixings

The Fixings

NomNomCat Tips for Ingredients:

1. Rice Paper (Bánh Tráng): Not all packages of rice paper are created equal! Depending on the brand you purchase, the paper may be too thin, too thick, or just right. Some are slightly salted and some are completely bland. Some even have slivers of bamboo from the drying racks (they’re not dangerous; just pick them out if you see them). I’ve noticed rice paper at regular ol’ neighborhood supermarkets (Ralphs, VONS, etc.) in the “International” section, but of course you could find more brands and size options at an Asian grocery store. My favorite is the one with the rose (bông hồng) on the center and the double parrot (hai con két) symbol on the left. Regardless of the brand, be sure to get the kind that’s sold in round clear plastic packages to avoid the disappointment of broken sheets of rice paper common to the bagged kind.

Mint

Mint

2. Mint (Rau): These are optional but highly recommended. There are so many different kinds of mint, but my favorite for spring rolls are spearmint (rau húng lủi), spicy Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), Thai basil (rau quế), and perilla (tía tô). Shiso leaves, which were gifted to us, are a variety of perilla that is all green, but the Vietnamese tía tô is usually purple on one side and green on the other. Luckily, they share a similar fragrance, so for the purposes of this spring roll, they are interchangeable. If you’re having friends over to roll their own spring rolls, it would be nice to put out a smorgasbord of mint for sampling and experimenting. Questions? Check out this awesome guide (that is, until we have time to create our own)!

Ingredients:

Protein:

– Shrimp, deveined, peeled, and cleaned, about 2-3 per roll

– Pork, boiled and sliced

1 10.5 ounce package vermicelli rice noodles

Assortment of veggies:

– Lettuce (1 head of romaine or green lettuce)

– Carrots, grated

– Bean sprouts, cleaned with the roots picked off

– Cucumbers, julienned (you can leave the skins on)

Assortment of mint (spearmint, Vietnamese coriander, Thai basil, perilla, etc.)

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

Optional: sambal oelek (chili paste)

Rice paper

Hot (but not boiling) water

Boil the shrimp in salted water until the flesh just turns opaque, about 1-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the shrimp and shock them in a bowl of ice water. Drain and set aside.

Shocking the Shrimp

Shocking the Shrimp

I was at Mitsuwa, a Japanese grocery store, and found these delectable slices of chashu pork. Instead of a steaming bowl of ramen, however, these slices were fated for something much more healthy. If you are using your own pork, simply boil in water until cooked through, let cool, and cut into thin slices.

Prepared Chashu Pork Slices

Prepared Chashu Pork Slices

Cook the vermicelli according to package instructions. For thin noodles, about 2-3 minutes in boiling water should suffice. Strain and rinse with cool water. Set aside.

A package of our favorite brand of vermicelli from Lan Vang

A package of our favorite brand of vermicelli – Lan Vang

Prepare the vegetables and arrange on a nice platter, if serving DIY style. If you plan to roll them all at once, just set up your mise en place.

Veggies for rolling

Veggies for rolling

Rinse the mint thoroughly in cool water. I like to fill a plastic bowl with water, gently push the leaves down a few times, rinse, and repeat about 3 times total. Shake onto sheets of paper towel to dry.

Drying the Mints

Drying the Mints

Next, prepare the sauce. Believe it or not, I had frequent requests from family to prepare this sauce when I was kid – in retrospect, it must have been my first signature dish.

Sauce Ingredients

Sauce Ingredients

In a small saucepan on medium-low, heat the hoisin sauce, peanut butter, and about 2-3 tablespoons of water. Stir constantly so the peanut butter does not burn.

Yum, peanut butter

Yum, peanut butter

Cook for about 2-3 minutes or until the sauce has warmed up enough to whisk together well and the consistency is to your liking. Add more water for a thinner sauce; I ended up needing about 5 tablespoons. Too sweet? Add another tablespoon of hoisin sauce. Remove from heat.

The Sauce

The Sauce

All set? Now it’s time to ROLL!

Fill a large bowl with hot water. Our tap heats up to near-boiling, but you’ll want a warm (but SAFE) temperature since you may be submerging your hands. Dip a sheet of rice paper in the warm water and rotate to moisten evenly. Lay onto a dinner plate and let sit for 30 seconds. The water will soften the paper into a malleable wrapper.

Arrange the vegetables, leafy ones first, along the bottom of the circle, approximately 1-2 inches from the edge. Leave room on the sides to tuck in the ends.

Step 1: leafy greens first

Step 1: leafy greens first

Top the leafy greens with vermicelli and the other vegetables.

Step 2: vermicelli and other vegetables

Step 2: vermicelli and other vegetables

Fold over the left and right sides so that they overlap the filling.

Step 3: fold the sides over

Step 3: fold the sides over

Fold up from the bottom and roll over once.

Step 4: roll up from the bottom

Step 4: roll up from the bottom

Arrange the shrimp on the rice paper.

Step 5: arrange the shrimp

Step 5: arrange the shrimp

Continue rolling. Voila~!

Finished spring roll

Finished spring roll

If desired, cut in half on a bias before serving with the dipping sauce. Also, you are welcome to arrange all of the fillings in the very middle before rolling, like so:

Rolling technique #2

Rolling technique #2

The first method makes for a prettier presentation since the bright pink shrimp are easier seen through just one layer of rice paper rather than multiple.

But they most certainly taste equally delicious!

But they most certainly taste equally delicious!

Serving wise, I would plan on 2-3 rolls per person for lunch and 3-4 rolls per person for dinner. The ratio I provided for the sauce yielded enough to accompany about a dozen rolls.

The Perfect Summer Dish

The Perfect Summer Dish

Spring rolls make for a great picnic item to take along on an outing to a park or beach to enjoy the summer sun. Just wrap them in plastic wrap to keep the rice paper from drying out. Easy peasy!

Thanks again to our friend A for the fresh produce. Nothing like crispy, fresh homegrown cucumbers to really make a spring roll taste extra special. Cheers!

nomnomcat print button

Day Five: Portland – Food Truck Tour

Food Adventures, Portland

We only had one day in Portland (literally about 30 hours total), so despite the depressing cold rain, we ventured out into the streets for a familiar LA food trend that has truly taken off in Portland — Food Trucks. While LA has had plenty of organized food truck gatherings and events, we hadn’t seen anything quite like this before. The trucks would rent out the edge spaces of ordinary parking lots, face their storefront to the sidewalk, and open for business more or less every day. They are always there so you don’t need any apps or websites to track them down. Awesome, right? Determined to eat like the locals do, we managed to track down three main clusters of food trucks in downtown Portland.

One of many food truck clusters in downtown Portland!

5th & Oak

– Spoons on 5th: it’s raining cats and dogs, and we were trying to be adventurous in our food selections, but who could possibly turn down a hot bowl of soup? We decided on the chicken barley soup, which comes in a cute wax-lined paper cup with a hunk of rustic bread. The guy behind the counter was friendly and clued us in on where to find shelter (hint: the bank/mall across the street has seating areas, couches, and coffee tables for your on-the-go dining pleasure). The soup itself was hearty with a bit of an unexpected kick from the black pepper. Martin polished it off happily.

Saigon Food to Go at 5th & Oak

– Saigon Food to Go: there is a surprising amount of Vietnamese food vendors in Portland! I was tempted to try their pho but opted for the safer and easier-to-eat goi cuon (“salad roll”) instead at $1.50/each. A bit steep but the rolls were fresh – definitely made that morning because the rice paper was still deliciously soft and supple (every spring roll enthusiast knows how hard and tough the banh trang gets when refrigerated for ANY period of time). The sauce was not particularly special but good nonetheless.

9th & Alder

– Samurai Japanese Cart: I loved the Engrish on their whiteboard announcing that “New Year’s Coming!” – super cute. Their menu boasts a variety of bento perfect for a quick lunch for nearby office workers but one in particular stood out to us – the agedashi tofu bento. This took a bit of time to prepare, but it was AMAZING. The blocks of tofu were fried fresh to order and they were breaded with mochiko which disintegrates in the sauce and becomes a thick, gooey coating. LEGIT. This agedashi tofu comes with a sweet soy sauce rather than the dashi broth I’m used to, but it tasted great. The rice is piled high and the order comes with some steamed veggies (also made to order). They even gave us hot genmaicha while we waited in the rain, and they’ve arranged a place between carts for customers to sit. 5 stars in my book. I’d come here every day if I lived or worked nearby! I also found out after looking them up on Yelp that the famous Japanese animator and film director Hayao Miyazaki likes this place when he visited Portland. If that isn’t a vouch for authenticity, I don’t know what is!

Agedashi Tofu Bento at Samurai Japanese Cart

2nd & Washington

What initially brought us to 2nd & Washington was Built to Grill (which is rated ridiculously highly on Yelp), but they were closed for the day. :( Unfazed, we explored our options and decided to pick up dinner for our impending long (LONG) bus ride to San Francisco.

– Taste of Korea: Reminiscent of the Korean bbq places we left behind in LA (particularly Gushi in Westwood, probably because of its teeny tiny hole-in-the-wall feel), this food truck offers rice plates with meats ranging from bulgogi to kalbi to spicy chicken. Martin decided on the fried tofu platter and I had the kalbi platter. I thought the $10 price tag was a bit steep at first, but then we received the to-go bag and WOW was it heavy! Each plate had a serving of salad (they remembered to leave the dressing on the side for us), a plastic container of kimchi, and a serving of my favorite banchan – japchae (Korean stirfried glass noodles – it is under the little cup of kimchi in the photo below). In the main section, you can’t miss the very generous amount rice. My order came with about 3 or 4 strips of the delicious, slightly sweet barbecue short ribs — almost double the portion you get for a plate at most places — and Martin’s had a few large triangles of breaded and deepfried tofu. Yum!

Kalbi Bento at Taste of Korea

There really is something for everyone when you eat at these food truck clusters. Aside from American fare like soups, sandwiches, and burgers, the ethnic cuisines ranged from Mexican to British to Greek to Thai and much more! We even spotted a teeny tiny booth (literally about the size of a phone booth) where one man set up shop to sell pho along the sidewalk. If only our stomachs were able to handle sampling every food truck/stand we saw!

————————-

Check out Spoons on 5th: www.spoonson5th.com

SW 5th & Stark
Portland, OR 97204

See their Yelp reviews here.

————————-

Check out Saigon Food To Go:

SW 5th and Stark
Portland, OR 97201

See their Yelp reviews here.

————————-

Check out Samurai Japanese Cart:

950 SW Alder St
Portland, OR 97205

See their Yelp reviews here.

————————-

Check out Taste of Korea:

412-426 SW 3rd Ave
Portland, OR 97204

See their Yelp reviews here.