Summer rolls, I have learned, only look complicated. Two tries later, they're one of my favorite new summer recipes. And, the fact that they can be picked up, makes them super kid-pleasing too. (Tell me a child who doesn't like to pick their food up with their hands!) Now, in terms of fillings, you all know your children best, so I trust you to come up with fillings that they'll like... in our case, I used this as an opportunity to make salad edible with our fingers!
The trick is mise en place (the fancy French word for "everything in its' place", a concept they teach you in culinary school... that I don't practice nearly enough at home). The possibilities for fillings are endless, but here's what I put into our first batch:
mango, cut into matchsticks
cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
spring roll wrappers (ideally brown rice)*
large bowl of warm water
cutting board big enough to fit the round wrapper
Dip a single** rice spring roll wrapper into your bowl of warm water, until it just starts to become malleable (30 seconds or so). Place it flat on your cutting board and pop your choice of fillings in the center (see photos below). Roll up, like a burrito: sides in first, ideally meeting; then one end comes up and over; then roll the whole little package until the other end fully covers the goodness inside. Will store, covered, in the fridge for 1-2 days.
*If you cannot find spring roll wrappers in the Asian aisle of our supermarket, you can buy them in bulk on Amazon. The brand they carry at our local Whole Foods is a brown rice variety by Happy Pho (aka Star Anise Foods) and they worked beautifully.
Now, on to the dipping sauce. I had a recipe for an almond butter-based sauce, which was good... but I as hoping to send these in this week's camp lunch boxes which are strictly nut-free so.... I came up with a nut-free option that is so, so good...
(Non-Peanut) Dipping Sauce
(makes about 2 cups of sauce)
1 cup raw tahini (ground sesame seeds)
1" piece fresh ginger root, skinned
1/2 cup water
juice of 3 lemons
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 Tablespoons sesame oil
3 Tablespoons Tamari
Combine all ingredients in a blender or Cuisinart and pulse until smooth. Stores in fridge for several days.
In addition to the salad ones I was making for my family, I decided to take some of this batch to a potluck. For that half of the batch, I added shrimp. That's the beauty of this recipe... you could be a short-order cook and tailor each roll to your tastes (if that's your thing...). You could also add chicken, tofu... or just enjoy a bunch of different veggies. In a subsequent batch, I added avocado to the mango + cabbage + cucumbers + carrots, which was rich and fabulous.
This should give you a visual cue for how much filling to put into each summer roll... Looking for more filling inspiration? Epicurious has a king crab one that sounds divine, albeit a lot more complicated that my (now) go-to recipe. And Bon Appetit added daikon radish sprouts and bean thread noodles to theirs. And Martha added shitakes and asparagus to her batch. So, have fun with the fillings!
** P.S. The reason I emphasize single is because the first time I attempted these, I put the whole darn package into the warm water.... which worked fine for the first 3 wrappers and then I had a soggy, waterlogged, gooey mess. So, read the instructions on the back of the package; stick to one!