Thursday, August 25, 2011

Homemade Gluten Free Spring Rolls with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

I love Asian food. I think thats pretty obvious by looking at the recipes on my blog and seeing where the vast majority of them originate.
 One thing that I always loved was egg rolls (I think that's pretty much synonymous with spring rolls, but I could be wrong), but egg rolls are made with egg roll wrappers, which, while very easy to make (I have a terrific recipe here on my site), are made with gluten, and hence... don't suit my needs living a gluten free life now.
I really was craving some egg rolls the other day, and then I discovered that there IS a gluten free alternative- spring rolls, originating in Vietnam, that are wrapped with rice paper, instead of egg roll wrappers.
If you're looking for instructions on how to make your own rice paper, I can't help you out. I've looked it up and it is so incredibly complicated, necessitating special equipment, that it really didn't seem worth the bother. Rice paper is sold with Asian goods (near the soy sauce and wasabi and sushi wrappers) in the grocery store, but can probably be bought more cheaply at an Asian grocery store. 
Rice papers weigh very little, so even if the package seems expensive, you get a ton of wrappers for your money. I paid $3.50 for my package of rice paper, but after making a huge ton of spring rolls, enough that that was my family's whole meal (and we're large eaters), we'd only used up a third, making the rice paper cost less than $1.20 for an entire meal's worth for a family of 4. Not dirt cheap, but certainly not very pricey either. And this is with having bought the rice paper at the grocery store, not at an Asian store. 
Best thing about rice paper is that its dry, not requiring refrigeration or freezing or whatever- you keep it in your cupboard until the next time you want to use it without worry about it spoiling. (And if you're worried about the health aspect- they contain two ingredients- rice, and water- so it's not anything overly processed.)

Here's how we made really terrific gluten free spring rolls for supper- pretty cheap, healthy, and delicious!

Homemade Gluten Free Spring Rolls with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

Spring Roll Ingredients:
Rice paper
Onions, chopped into crescents
Seasonal/cheap veggies, such as peppers, mushrooms, cabbage, zucchini, bean sprouts, etc...
Garlic powder
Ginger (dried or fresh)
Protein, if desired. Options include flaked, deboned fish, shredded deboned chicken, shredded meat, etc..
Soy sauce (gluten free)
Fish sauce (preferably homemade)
Salt (optional)

Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar, honey, or sucanat
3 tablespoons fermented fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablespoon dried cilantro or parsley
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions for Spring Rolls:

1. Chop up your vegetables into thin matchsticks, keeping the different types of vegetables separate.

2.  In a large wok, heat up a large amount of oil (ideally coconut oil) until it starts smoking. Once it is smoking, add the onions. Mix and cook until the onions are translucent. If using fresh ginger, add at this point.

3. Add the carrots and cook until they start softening.

4. Add whichever other vegetables you desire, cooking them until they're nearly cooked all the way, and only then adding the next. The order in which you should add these vegetables are- mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, and then cabbage.

5. Once all the vegetables are cooked, add the bean sprouts (if using) and the scallions, and cook it until they're soft.

6. If using a protein, add it (already cooked) to the stir fry now, and mix well.

7.  Season your stir fry with fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, and salt to taste.

8. Take one rice paper out of the package. Be careful with it- at this point it is hard and can chip or crack pretty easily.

9. Dip the rice paper in a bowl of water. This will soften it, and you'll soon be able to bend it a drop. Make sure to get the whole thing wet otherwise it won't work as well.

10. Quickly move the rice paper to a plate. It will get soft and then gummy/sticky rather quickly, so you want to work while it is pliable but not disintegrating.

11. Put a spoon or two of the stir fry mix close to the edge of the rice paper, about two inches from one edge, and centered, as in the picture below. (It's not so easy to see the rice paper as it is translucent, but it is the size of the entire plate.)

12. Fold up the bottom of the rice paper, so it covers the stir fry, like so.

13. Fold both sides over the stir fry, so you have a pouch.

14. Roll up the stir fry so you end up with a roll like this. 

15. You can make a few at a time, but only if you work quickly. If you let them wait too long, they'll get too sticky to use and will stick to the plate.

16. Fill your wok with coconut oil, and heat it up. When hot, add the spring roll.

17. Cook until the bottom is golden, then turn it over. You may see a huge bubble in the rice paper- that is fine. Just turn it over anyhow, pop the bubble, and let it cook.

18. Cook and flip until there isn't any uncooked part left. Remove from the pan, and ideally place it in a wire rack, but if you don't have that, onto a cloth napkin or something else to catch the oil.

19. Eat immediately, because if not, it'll start sticking to the cloth napkin and it'll become gummy instead of crunchy. Eat together with the dipping sauce.

To Make the Dipping Sauce

1. Mix all the ingredients together, making sure all the sweetener dissolves. 

2. That's it!

Notes- In my spring rolls, I used onions, carrots, shitake mushrooms, yellow peppers, zucchini, bean sprouts,  scallions, and flaked perch. Any other combination can be used, but this combination was heavenly. 
If you don't mind using gluten, use my egg roll wrapper recipe, simply substituting the instructions there for steps 8-10 in this recipe. 

Do you enjoy egg rolls or spring rolls? Do you usually have them made with egg roll wrappers or rice paper? Which way do you prefer?
What type of filling do you usually put in your spring roll/egg roll when you make it; what type do you order when you buy it? What type of dipping sauce do you usually use?
How much do rice papers cost where you live?
I've seen some recipes where rice papers are used to make spring rolls but then they're not fried, they're just eaten as is. Have you ever done that? How do they taste that way? Should I try it that way?
Do you think you'd try out this recipe?


  1. Mine stuck to the pan and all the wrappers ripped! Any thoughts?

    1. It could be the oil wasn't hot enough. What type of pan did you use?

    2. You could try letting them dry out (on parchment paper) before frying. Don't let them touch though, or they will stick together. Also, use a toothpick to poke a couple of holes in the wrapper before frying. That will help prevent the huge bubbles. You don't want those bubbles to break or the oil will fill the inside of the egg roll.

      Also, be sure to use a non-stick skillet for frying.


  2. Mine stuck to the pan! All the wrappers ripped! Any thoughts?


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