When we realized we hadn’t yet featured fresh summer rolls on Planetarian Life, we immediately bumped them to the top of the tester’s list. They’re just so light and fresh, and everyone loves them—even kids! Whether you serve them for lunch, supper, or appetizer/ first course, fresh summer rolls are perfect for any summer meal.
Though not impossible, it’s silly to write a “recipe” for fresh summer rolls. If you’ve got rice paper wrappers, a package of rice sticks, also known as rice vermicelli, an avocado, a few scallions, and some cilantro, you can likely open your fridge and find the remaining ingredients.
“Ingredients” for Summer Rolls
Rice paper usually comes in 6- or 8-inch rounds. We made the fresh summer rolls pictured here with 6-inch wrappers, but the bigger 8-inch wrappers are easier to work with.
Next step is to soften the rice sticks. Simply pour boiling water over them and they’ll soften in just a couple of minutes. Drain them, run them under cold water, and they’re ready to use. The rice vermicelli is optional but adds substance to what would otherwise be just wrapped raw veggies.
Next, prepare your vegetables—no need to measure or weigh. Simply slice up an avocado or two. We found that one large was enough for about twelve 6-inch wrappers. Like the rice vermicelli, you could make it optional, but it adds substance and a lovely cream texture a la California rolls. It also helps hold the vegetables in place.
Cut the scallions into lengths slightly shorter than the rolls you’re making. You’ll need to cut the white sections into thinner strips, but you can leave the green lengths as is. Now, pluck some cilantro leaves from their stems and place them in a pile.
Use Whatever Veggies You Have
Open the fridge and see what veggies you’ve got. As you can see from our photo, we used bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and radishes, but I could have also used some thinly shredded purple or green cabbage. The key is to slice or julienne the veggies as thinly as possible. A mandolin is perfect for slicing cucumbers (and radishes if we hadn’t match-sticked them). Figure 3 thin slices of cucumber per roll. The rest, just start slicing and match-sticking—a carrot, a few radishes, a bell pepper.
Assembling the Summer Rolls
With mis complete, it’s time to start rolling. To make the rice paper pliable, add a little warm water to 9-inch cake pan or pie plate, and dip the wrapper into water. It won’t immediately be pliable, but by the time you’ve built your fresh summer roll, it will be.
Dip a rice paper round into the water and lay it on a work surface. The order is up to you but start with your most visual and colorful vegetables. Today, we led with bell peppers, but sometimes, I start with the cilantro or cucumber. Make sure to add a slice or two of avocado about halfway through the layering process, which acts as a bit of glue, especially for the last few layers. And remember not to overstuff the wrapper—it’ll be too hard to roll. End with a little wad of rice vermicelli—an ingredient that tends to help hold the package together.
Now it’s time to roll. Fold in one side, then the other, over the vegetable mound. Now pick up the end closest to you and fold it over the mound, tucking it under the vegetables and you roll the rice paper and tightly as you can. The rice paper will naturally stick—no need to do anything further.
The first couple of rolls may not look as pretty as you would like, but once you cut the roll in half, no one will notice the flaws. Practice makes perfect, so the more you make, the better your skills.
You’ll likely have leftover vegetables, which you can package up and toss into tomorrow’s salad or roll into more summer rolls later in the week. (It’s so much easier to say yes to making them if the veggies are already prepped!)
Now make a little dipping sauce. Mix together the following: 1/4 cup coconut milk, 2 tablespoons each: peanut butter and mango chutney, 2 teaspoons each: soy sauce and lime juice, and 1 teaspoon sriracha. If you want extra heat, squirt in a little extra sriracha and if you don’t have fresh limes, sub in rice wine vinegar.
Take a tray of these to your next potluck party. They’re a little like deviled eggs and shrimp cocktail. No matter how many you make, the platter is always empty at the end of the night.
Fresh Summer Rolls
- 1 package (about 12 6- or 8-inch wrappers) rice paper summer roll wrappers
- 1 package (about 8 oz) vermicelli rice noodles, optional
- 1-2 large avocados, optional
- 1 bunch scallions, optional
- Vegetables (use a variety of what you have on hand -- we suggest bell pepper, cucumber, radish, and green or purple cabbage)
- Cilantro, optional
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons each: peanut butter and mango chutney
- 2 teaspoons each: soy sauce and lime juice*
- 1 teaspoon sriracha*
- Pour boiling water over the rice noodles and let sit for a and they’ll soften in just a couple of minutes. Drain and run them under cold water.
- Next, prepare your vegetables—no need to measure or weigh. Simply slice up an avocado or two, cut the scallions into lengths slightly shorter than the rolls, cutting the white sections into thinner strips. Then slice or julienne the remaining vegetables.
- Add a little warm water to 9-inch cake pan or pie plate, and dip the rice wrappers into water, one at a time. Once soft, lay it on a work surface. Add each of the vegetables, herbs, and a mound of rice noodles. We recommend putting the avocado in the middle for "glue" and finishing with the rice noodles.
- To roll the wrappers, fold in one side, then the other, over the vegetable mound. Then pick up the end closest to you and fold it over the mound, tucking it under the vegetables and roll the rice paper tightly. The rice paper will naturally stick to itself. Cut diagonally in half or serve whole.
- Mix sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve with summer rolls.