I've never been a fan of spring rolls. I'm fairly sure this is as a result of early exposure at school dinners to a comestible dubbed a pancake roll - a huge, solid, brown rectangle dripping with grease and flabby beansprouts.
But summer rolls are an entirely different matter. Fresh, light, stuffed with herbs and lettuce and other stuff so deliciously good for you that it's practically a salad, without the hair-shirt.
A traditional Vietnamese snack, summer rolls aka gỏi cuốn need at least one specialist ingredient (the rice paper wrappers), but it's worth schlepping out and stocking up.
Classic fillings are thin rice noodles, lettuce, pork and prawns. You can leave out the pork to make it meat-free or substitute fried tofu. I like to use diced roast pork belly (ok, so the claim to health food becomes wobbly here) or sometimes chunks of roast duck. You could use leftovers from a roast.
Lettuce-wise, you want to use butter, Boston or Bibb - the round, velvety type - as the fat leaves holds everything together nicely.
As for herbs, you can play with the mix to some extent. The best combo uses chives and coriander but also slightly esoteric herbs like perilla, cockscomb mint, and Thai basil, which give unexpected, citrussy, almost spicy notes.
You can get away with just chives, coriander, and mint however, and that will give the rolls just enough leafy pep.
Sometimes I add crispy dried shallots. That's veering into bánh cuốn territory, but as Vietnamese food expert Uyen Luu of Leluu Supperclub says, "You can add whatever you like to these rolls and make them your own".
They're a little tricky to make first time around but no cooking required, and with a bit of practice, you'll be making these as quickly as a sandwich - and as far as I'm concerned, they're much nicer than a sarnie in a packed lunch, or even a picnic ...
My Vietnamese Summer Rolls recipe on Channel 4 Food
(originally written to accompany Gordon's Great Escape to Vietnam)
Roast leftovers are a good idea too, and it might be a nice way to use up barbecue leftovers as well, provided I don't incinerate the meat! Reckon these'll taste very good with rice noodles and a pork cooked bun cha style if I can nail that.
and I've made them sort of like California Roll sushi with avocado and crab sticks, really good :)
@Josordoni - Ha, love a crabstick!
@Ute @HungryinLondon - As soon as I can, I will try to book Leluu's cooking class - your review sounded amazing.
W A N T
@BSG - Thank you - yeah, thought they'd be good for this weather :)
@chumbles - Think we're in the minority re spring rolls!
@TheFastestIndian - They are sooo nice. Am sure one of the stores will have them.