Stack Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls sky high and I guarantee you they’ll all be eaten. Can anyone ever get enough of these exceptionally aromatic salad parcels? Just look at how insanely fresh the herbs are! Honestly, every time my family makes these, it’s as if a luscious oasis fell from the heavens and landed on my desperately parched lips. They’re pure salvation!
If you’ve never had Vietnamese food before, you have to try these rice paper rolls. They’re the perfect introduction to a cuisine that EXPLODES with fragrant herbs and flavour! And that’s not even the end of it! Staple Vietnamese sauces (while few) compliment South Asian dishes like two inseparable peas in a pod.
Want to know which pea these rice paper rolls are in a pod with? Check out my ridiculously EASY Peanut Hoisin Sauce for Rice Paper Rolls recipe. It’d be a culinary crime have one without the other!
What IS rice paper?
Vietnamese rice paper (bánh tráng) is a delicately thin rice sheet with a slight resemblance to paper. It’s so thin that it appears almost translucent when you hold it up against a coloured backdrop! Rice paper itself is made with rice and tapioca flour, salt and water.
We get ours from the local Asian supermarket and it stores dry, which is why one packet lasts AGES in our pantry. Many more incentives to make rice paper rolls, I say!
What do you eat rice paper rolls with?
There are many Vietnamese rice paper roll recipes, but you probably guessed from my wooden board up above (yeah, you know which image I’m talking about) that we’re making the prawn and pork version. That means we’ll be stocking up on leafy greens, thin rice noodles and our two meats. Of course, you can substitute the herbs for your favourite ones and the meats for anything you’d prefer but this is what we use:
For the leafy greens
- Thai basil
- Purple/Green Perilla
- Vietnamese coriander
- Bean sprouts
- Garlic chives
They’re all purchased from our local Asian supermarket. You can find out more about each herb from the Aromatics & Asian Vegetables page!
The meats and noodles
How to prepare your ingredients for the rice paper rolls
Begin by setting up a large pot of boiling water with enough liquid to cover the pork belly.
Wash the pork belly and put it in the boiling water to cook completely. Take it out and slice thinly when ready.
Boil a pot of water and cook the rice noodles. Keep a close eye on them and repeatedly test the noodles to see if they’re ready. Because they’re so thin, they can easily overcook.
Run them under cold water and drain using a colander. You want them to cool completely before rolling.
Separate the leaves from their stems and give them a thorough wash to remove any dirt. As for the lettuce, break each leaf off. This is a great opportunity to get your family involved!
Drain the greens in colanders.
Peel and devein the prawns. Grandma likes to halve them to make them thinner, but if you love fresh prawns like me then just keep them whole.
Setting up your success station
Make sure you have your ‘success station’ before you even start rolling your rice paper rolls. Rice paper can be a little difficult to work with, so here’s a family tip. It’s uncontested because it works.
- Have all the ingredients laid out around you. I like my sliced pork, peeled prawns and cooked noodles closest to me because they take up the least space. My washed and dried leafy greens stay in their colanders behind the meat so I don’t have to reach OVER them. Bean sprouts stay in cold water to stop the browning process but keep a handful in a small colander to drip dry as you roll.
- Keep not one, but TWO plates slightly larger than the rice paper’s size. This is the biggest tip. The plates act as a sacred resting ground for your delicate rice paper. Trust me, your rice paper will need to rest. Having two plates gives it the rice paper enough time to soften while you roll.
- Make sure the water is warm, not scorching. I always keep a bowl of warm water in my success station. As soon as I finish rolling a rice paper roll, I dip a new rice paper into the water until it’s wet all over (you will need to rotate the rice paper) and place it on an empty plate.
Tips for rolling the perfect rice paper roll
I started learning how to do these since I was a child. When Mum made them, she would invite me to take part in this therapeutic experience. I must admit, my rolling has improved but nothing beats the way Mum and Grandma roll it. Here are some tips to achieve what our household masters do:
- Don’t go overboard with the fillings. The more you add, the harder it will be to keep it all together.
- Roll it TIGHTLY. I vividly remember Grandma sitting next to me, pressing down firmly with every roll she made. The result? A perfectly rolled rice paper roll.
- Wet the rice paper, but don’t drown it. The hotter the water is, the faster the rice paper will soften…and rip. Just dunk it in a bowl of warm water and IMMEDIATELY but gently rotate it to coat the rest of the surface. It won’t be soft yet, but I promise it will on the plate.
- Lay the rice noodles ON TOP of the herbs. The noodles’ weight will help hold the leafy greens down.
How to roll a rice paper roll
Wet two rice papers, placing them on a separate plate each.
Lay the lettuce on the part of rice paper closest to you. Place the other herbs on top.
Grab some noodles and place it over the herbs. The weight will help hold the greens down.
Slide a few pieces of pork above the greens. Make sure to leave no gaps because they will show in the final roll.
Place 2-3 prawns above the pork.
Fold the left and right side of the rice paper toward the middle.
Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls (Gỏi Cuốn)
Meats and Noodles
- Thai basil
- Purple/Green perilla
- Bean sprouts
- Garlic chives
- Set up a large pot of boiling water with enough liquid to cover the pork belly.
- Wash the pork belly and put it in the boiling water to cook completely. Take it out and slice thinly when ready.
- Boil a pot of water and cook the rice noodles.
- Run them under cold water and drain using a colander. You want them to cool completely before rolling.
- Separate the leaves from their stems and give them a thorough wash to remove any dirt. As for the lettuce, break each leaf off.
- Drain the greens in colanders.
- Peel and devein the prawns. Optional: halve the prawns along the spine.
Setting up your rolling success station
- Have all the ingredients laid out around you.
- Keep not one, but TWO plates slightly larger than the rice paper’s size.
- Make sure the water is warm, not scorching.
Rolling the rice paper roll
- Wet two rice papers, placing them on a separate plate each.
- Lay the lettuce on the part of rice paper closest to you. Place the other herbs on top.
- Grab some noodles and place it over the herbs.
- Slide a few pieces of pork above the greens. Make sure to leave no gaps because they will show in the final roll.
- Place 2-3 prawns above the pork.
- Fold the left and right side of the rice paper toward the middle.
- Bring the bottom of the rice paper to the middle and begin rolling tightly.
- Serve with a generous dish of Peanut Hoisin Sauce!
SHARE YOUR CREATION!
If you recreated this authentic recipe, I’d love to see it! Tag @wokandkin on Instagram with the hashtag #wokandkin! See you there!
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