Spring rolls are traditionally served on the first day of the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. This Southeast Asian version incorporates ingredients like Thai basil and fish sauce for a unique regional flavor.
Makes 8 spring rolls
If you can’t find Thai basil, do not substitute regular basil; its flavor is too gentle to stand up to the other, more assertive flavors in the filling. Mint makes a better substitute. If you are unable to obtain fish sauce, substitute an equal amount of rice vinegar plus 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spring rolls are best eaten immediately, but they can be held for up to 4 hours in the refrigerator, covered with a clean, damp kitchen towel.
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces rice vermicelli
1 large carrot, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
1 medium jalapeño or 2 Thai chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced, or 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 large cucumber (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut
4 large leaves red leaf or Boston lettuce, halved lengthwise
8 round rice paper wrappers (8 inches in diameter)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Thai basil leaves or mint leaves, small leaves left whole, medium and large leaves torn into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
Peanut Dipping Sauce
1. Combine sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice in small bowl; set aside.
2. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in medium saucepan. Stir in salt and rice vermicelli. Cook until noodles are tender but not mushy, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain noodles and rinse under cold running water until cool. Drain again and transfer to medium bowl; toss 2 tablespoons fish sauce mixture with noodles and set aside.
3. Combine carrot, peanuts, and jalapeño in small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon fish sauce mixture; toss to combine. Toss cucumber in remaining 1 tablespoon fish sauce mixture.
4. Place lettuce on platter. Spread clean, damp kitchen towel on work surface. Fill 9-inch pie plate with 1 inch room-temperature water. Working one at a time, immerse each wrapper in water until just pliable, about 10 seconds; lay softened wrapper on towel. Scatter 6 Thai basil leaves and 6 cilantro leaves over wrapper. Arrange 5 cucumber sticks horizontally on wrapper; top with 1 tablespoon carrot mixture, then arrange about 2 1/2 tablespoons noodles on top of carrot mixture. Wrap spring roll and set on 1 lettuce piece on platter. Cover with second damp kitchen towel; repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Serve with dipping sauce, wrapping lettuce around exterior of each roll.
Southeast Asian-Style Spring Rolls with Shrimp
Peel and remove tails from 8 ounces medium (31/35 count) shrimp. Follow recipe for Southeast Asian–Style Spring Rolls, adding shrimp to boiling water along with salt in step 2; cook until shrimp are opaque, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to small bowl; use water to cook rice vermicelli as in step 2. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop shrimp. When assembling spring rolls, place about 2 tablespoons chopped shrimp on top of noodles.
Peanut Dipping Sauce
Makes about 3/4 cup
The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Serve at room temperature.
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce (optional)
2 teaspoons peanut or vegetable oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Whisk peanut butter, hoisin sauce, water, tomato paste, and chili sauce, if using, in small bowl. Heat oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in small saucepan over medium heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in peanut butter mixture; bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors blend, about 3 minutes. (Sauce should have ketchup-like consistency; if too thick, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until proper consistency is reached.) Transfer to bowl; cool to room temperature.