I’m sure you will have heard of Spring Rolls, or as they are sometimes referred to, Summer Rolls. In this post, the focus is on Vietnamese Spring Rolls: fresh rice paper rolls typically filled with meat, fish, veg and noodles, and served with a peanut or fish sauce.
Now, I know this isn’t sounding very vegan. However, Vietnam has many Chay (vegan) establishments that serve their own veganised versions with tofu, veg, noodles, mushrooms and a peanut or vegan fish sauce. Yes, vegan fish sauce. It is basically a fermented soy-based sauce that is actually really quite tasty!
Whilst I was living in Vietnam, I obsessed over these tasty rolls. So much so that I started a small food business out there selling my vegan fusion versions.
I am no longer running this business, but I do still make this vegan Vietnamese spring roll recipe on the regular.
Aren't spring rolls from a Chinese takeaway?
The name ‘spring rolls’ definitely brings up memories of those deep fried Chinese takeaway rolls filled with veg and beansprouts. However, the Vietnamese will use their version of the word ‘Spring’ for both their fresh rolls and their deep fried rolls.
Many locals would give you a slightly odd look if you were to ask for a ‘Summer Roll’, unless you were to hit a touristy spot.
It was actually the Viet kieu (overseas Vietnamese) in America who popularised the use of ‘Summer Roll’, as a way to play with seasonality. I have often considered what you would put in a fresh ‘winter roll’, or ‘autumn roll’. Maybe a little too odd to even think about.
My obsession with vegan Vietnamese spring rolls
Since my year or so I lived in Vietnam, I have not been able to put these rolls down. When I was in Vietnam I ate them ALL THE TIME. If I ate out, I ordered them. If I got a takeaway, I ordered them.
It was also the first Vietnamese dish I learnt to make when I first arrived. I was fortunate enough to be taught by locals who also had a lot of experience in cooking vegan food!
Vegan spring roll ingredients
I like to play around with the ingredients a bit. So you may not notice many traditional Vietnamese rolls with pineapple inside them, but the pineapple works well to balance out the flavours with the peanut sauce and the green veg.
You can also play around with these rolls in any way you want. Mushrooms work amazingly and you can also try fake meat or fake prawns if you want to recreate the more authentic rolls.
Looking to add a crunch to your rolls? I used to actually make a ‘Mexican’ fusion roll with crushed up tortilla chips and sweetcorn served with a salsa dip. It worked amazingly well – so don’t judge it until you try it!
For the sauce, many Vietnamese will also add hoisin sauce. I’ve even had a great one with pineapple in it. Personally, I like to play around with the flavours in the sauce, so I hardly ever stick to one recipe. Have a play yourself, see what you can make!
Tips on making good Vietnamese spring rolls
They are very cheap to buy, extremely simple to make, and very very tasty! Fresh ingredients and a flavourful sauce are what make these rolls so great. The one downside to making your own, is how fiddly rolling them can be. At first, you may find yourself making a complete mess.
1. Wet the rice paper well
You need to wet the rice paper in order to roll it. Have a bowl of water ready to dunk the paper in to. Make sure to only wet it and not to drown it, otherwise it could make your life much more difficult.
2. Roll it like a burrito
Treat the roll like a burrito, bring the sides in and then roll tightly over the top of the vegetables – away from you. This should mean that all the ingredients are wrapped in without an escape route. The tighter the better, even a little sag may create a big mess when you attempt to dip and eat the roll.
I hope you enjoy these rolls. They got the seal of approval from my Vietnamese ex-boyfriend (even despite his initial concern with the pineapple), so I will take that as a win!
Vegan Vietnamese spring rolls with peanut Sauce
- Start by mixing the peanut sauce ingredients together in a saucepan
- Place the pan on a low heat and stir continuously until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the sauce turns into a smooth liquid
- Pour the sauce into a bowl and cool down in the fridge (you can add water to the sauce once its cooled down to reach your desired consistency)
- Prepare your spring roll ingredients by slicing thin strips of the pineapple and tofu
- Wash your lettuce and herbs thoroughly and allow to dry
- Place all your ingredients on a work surface so they are close to hand along with the rice paper, a bowl of water and the rice vermicelli noodles
- Wet one sheet of rice paper and place flat down onto a clean workspace
- Add in one lettuce leaf, herbs, noodles and arrange the sliced ingredients
- Bring in the sides of the rice paper so that they cover the edges of the ingredients and then tightly roll the paper away from you and tuck underneath, and roll over until enclosed (it should seal without any issues, if not wipe with a little more water)
- Repeat until you use up your ingredients
- Serve with your dip and enjoy!