How To Make Spring Rolls

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About

Spring rolls are a rolled-stuffed wrapper filled with minced vegetables, fish, and meats. Through the years spring rolls and egg rolls have become synonymous but they are two distinctly different dishes. Spring rolls are wrapped in a thin light wrapper made of rice flour and sometimes tapioca or wheat flour and served fresh. Egg rolls are made with a thicker pastry wrapper and typically fried. There are some steamed and baked versions as well.

History Of The Name

spring roll wrapper

Originally an invention of the Chinese, Spring Rolls "chun juan" were made from the early spring vegetable crop, wrapped in thin crepe-like sheets and fried. This basic dish has been since adapted by other Asian and Western cultures including Thailand, Japan and Vietnam.

The Vietnamese and Thai use the rice based wrapper that you can find in many grocery stores and this style spring roll is typically served fresh, not fried. Another related version is Lumpia common in the Philippines.

Wrappers

  • Rice sheets - made from rice flour, salt and water. Rice sheet wrappers are a bit softer and more pliable when soaked. It has been increasingly difficult to find spring roll wrappers that are made of rice flour only. Most wrappers available today combine tapioca flour with rice flour. The tapioca flour is used because it is plentiful and because it adds strength to the sheets when they are moistened.  
  • Tapioca sheets - made from tapioca starch, rice flour, salt and water. Tapioca sheets stay a bit more stretchy after soaking and hold up better if your spring rolls will be sitting before eating.

Wrapper Comparison

These wrappers are used in similar ways.  The wonton and gyoza wrappers can be substituted for one another.  Neither would be a substitute for fresh rolls but could be used if you are making a fried spring roll.

 Spring Roll  Wonton  Gyoza
 tapioca sheets  wonton skin  gyoza skin
Spring roll wrappers are made from rice or tapioca flour or a combination of both.  Use for making fresh or steamed spring rolls.
Wonton wrappers are made from wheat flour and are used to make either baked, steamed or fried wonton.
Gyoza wrappers are also made from wheat flour. The wrappers are thinner than wonton and can be used to make gyoza that are steamed or fried.

 

Basic Fresh Spring Roll Recipe (Summer Rolls)

  • 12 spring roll wrappers 9" (rice paper)
  • 6 oz. firm tofu (not silken)
  • 2 T. or more soy sauce, tamari
  • 6 oz. thin rice noodles (vermicelli)
  • 48 fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 head leaf lettuce
  • 3 shredded carrots (optional)
  • spring roll sauce (see side bar)

Method

  1. Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch slices. Pat dry with paper towels. Press it for an hour (optional). Put the tofu slices on a nonstick cookie pan. Add the soy sauce, trying to keep it on the tofu as much as possible.
  2. Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes, turning occasionally and adding more soy sauce if they look like they can absorb more. When they are nice and brown and dry, cut them into strips, about the size of French fries. You will need one strip per spring roll. (If you don't have time to bake the tofu, cut it into strips and fry it with the soy sauce on a nonstick skillet for a few minutes, carefully turning each strip, trying to crisp it up a little on each side.) Set aside.
  3. Wash and dry the lettuce. Tear it into 3 or 4 inch pieces, removing stems and crisp veins. Your lettuce needs to be on the limp side. Any crisp pieces will tear the spring roll wrappers when you try to roll them.
  4. Wash and dry the mint. Remove all stems. Set aside. (If you can't get fresh mint, you can substitute fresh cilantro, but the spring rolls will taste quite different.
  5. Shred or grate the carrots into small pieces.
  6. Add the the rice vermicelli into boiling water and cook until just done, about 2 or 3 minutes. Pour into a colander, and rinse with cool water. The noodles need to be well drained and cool enough to handle. Set aside.
  7. Put an inch or two of water in a pan that is big enough to hold the spring rolls. (Cool water works fine). Separate the wrappers, and stack them in the water, making sure each one is completely covered with water before putting in the next one. Leave the wrappers in the water until they are flexible (about 2 or 3 minutes). Remove the whole stack at once, and place them on a clean wet kitchen towel, covering them with another damp towel.

Assemble Spring Rolls

  1. Carefully remove one wrapper and put it on another surface such as a bamboo sushi mat or a damp towel. If you use a plate be sure to remove the excess water between each spring roll.
  2. Working quickly place the following fillings onto a moistened wrapper; or 4 small pieces of lettuce, 4 leaves of mint, a handful of rice noodles, one strip of tofu, and a few tablespoons of carrots if desired. Quickly fold the bottom of the wrapper over the pile, fold in the sides, and continue to roll up. Place on a plate and cover with plastic wrap.

Note: If the spring rolls are falling apart make sure the wrapper is drained well and don't overfill the wrapper before folding.

Serving

Cut each spring roll in half making a diagonal cut. Serve cold or room temperature with dipping sauce. The rolls can stay covered in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. They can be packed and served for lunches and outings.

As appetizer, serve one or two per person. As a main course, count on at least three per person.

Sweet Spring Roll Sauce

  • 4 T. sugar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1 c. broth or water
  • 2 T. corn starch
  • 1/4 c. cold water
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed with 1/4 ts. salt

Combine sugar, soy sauce, and broth. Bring to a boil. Add corn starch mixed smoothly with the cold water, and stir until the mixture thickens slightly. Simmer, stirring for 1 minute. Stir in garlic. Serve warm or cold.

Where To Buy Spring Roll Wrappers

Spring roll wrappers can be purchased in most any Asian grocery store and even some well-stocked grocery stores.  They can also be purchased in Walmart stores as well as online at Amazon.com

author

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.